I love the holidays for one billion reasons, but perhaps one of the most significant is the food. It gives me an excuse to try new and elaborate things that you would just never bother to make on a weeknight, or even a normal weekend for that matter. Holidays give you an excuse to make true special occasion food. (And luckily we have “Januarys” every year to give us an excuse to omit all special occasion food and become pious again… but that’s another story for another day.) This year, I decided to try a recipe for a traditional Italian food, arancini. Arancini, as far as I understand them, are essentially balls of risotto, breaded and fried. One of the first arancini I ever tried was last year in a food tour in New York City’s Greenwich Village, and it was DELICIOUS!
Oh my word, it was gooey and cheesy, still pleasantly warm in the middle (which was perfect for eating on the street on a cold day in the city). The outside was seasoned just enough and perfectly crispy – just the right amount of crunch when your teeth bite into it. It took me a whole year to make my own, but it had been on my mind ever since!
So this year, I embarked on the arancini journey, taking the easiest approach I knew how. I Googled a recipe and trusted the first result because it came from my mother-of-all-food-resources, FoodNetwork.com.
To say that preparing the arancini was easy would be a misstatement of fact, but it would be fair to say that it wasn’t extremely challenging, simply time consuming and requiring a tiny bit of manual dexterity.
After doing some basic mise en place (love that term), I began. The risotto part was easy, so don’t be intimidated by that. I didn’t do an elaborate risotto with obsessive stirring and additions of water/broth. I made a simple arborio rice just by letting some simmer and giving it an occasional stir.
I combined my cheeses, pine nuts, and parsley.
Then, as the recipe was intended to make 16 balls, I divided the mixture into 16 equal parts that looked a little something like this:
After combining the bread crumbs, Parm, eggs, and cooled rice, I started to stuff the rice balls. I scooped up a handful of rice mixture and made a little impression in the center. I then used a tiny set of tongs to grab the cheese mixture and jam it into the center. This somewhat helped me keep my freer hand clean which was helpful as I made progress. I still started to get so sloppy half way through that I had to take a break and wash my hands.
Then I fried those puppies up in some vegetable oil! (I didn’t say it was healthy. I said it was holiday food.)
Ohhhhh… was I ever pleased! Holy arancini. I thought maybe you’d have to be a professional with years of practice in order to make a “real” looking product. But this delightful little ball of fun was just as warm, cheesy, and perfectly crisp as I remembered my NYC arancini. And it truly wasn’t all that complicated to make!
We served these with some marinara sauce because everything is better with marinara with very few exceptions. I suggest serving them freshly fried. After assembling the arancini, I placed them all on a sheet pan and refrigerated them until it was time to cook them which seemed like a reasonable thing to do and had no apparent disadvantages.
My list of holiday foods grows longer every year, and I intend to add this to the growing list. Here’s a link to the recipe if you’d like to as well!
Arancini – Enjoy!!