Arancini are one of those things I've been aware of for a while but kept forgetting about, so the jealousy that swept over me when seeing some guy on Food Network chomping on one of these deep fried delights was just the kick in the butt I needed to get experimenting.
I always have reservations about deep frying, I'm not exactly sure why... There have been no hot oil burn incidents in my past, not that I can recall anyway - I've heard that extreme pain can block out memories but I'm pretty sure on this one. I think it might just be my aversion to smelly kitchens and when you fry some stuff you just can't help but get a kitchen full of greasy, fatty air. I could never, ever work in a fish and chip shop that's for sure.
Rambling aside, this 'fear to fry' paranoia was swept right out the door upon viewing the stringy melted mozzarella core of these golden risotto beauties. Unless you have a severe cheese hatred I defy you to look at the following picture and not salivate.
Now this recipe is in no way traditional, it's just my take on it. I've seen arancini filled with meat ragu, diced cooked mushrooms, a thick tomato sauce, even a venison type stew. A few of the concoctions I'd like to try in the future are roasting little vine or cherry tomatoes to encase in the risotto, roasted sweet potato cubes, and perhaps some creamy garlic and spinach.
I used leftover risotto from dinner the evening before which I'd made with lemon, saffron, mushrooms and prawns but use your imagination, these are very versatile little bites. At the end of this post I'll put a few links to some risotto recipes I think would work well in case you haven't developed a serious risotto fetish like I have. There's not a hint of shame there, I promise.
Basil and Mozzarella Arancini
Makes around 12
3 cups of cold risotto
1 packet of pizza mozzarella (the kind that doesn't come in liquid)
12 leaves of basil
2 medium eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs *
Enough oil to fill your pan about 3 inches deep **
Cut the mozzarella into twelve 2cm cubes and wrap each one in a leaf of basil. Preparing a little arancini production line will make life a lot easier so put the bowls of beaten egg, breadcrumbs, risotto and mozzarella cubes together with a baking tray next to them.
Grab a small handful of risotto, about the size of a golf ball, and push one of the basil and mozzarella cubes into it. Squish the risotto around it make a ball shape with no gaps in the rice.
Next, coat the ball in the beaten egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs to give an even coverage. Place on the baking tray and repeat until you have all twelve done.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F and then heat up your oil on the hob. The oil is hot enough to deep fry when you can see ripples in the pan. I usually throw in a pinch of flour to make sure - if it starts to fizzle and cook immediately the oil is ready, if it doesn't let it heat up for a few more minutes and try again.
Fry off the arancini in batches until they are a lovely golden brown, then remove them from the pan and let them sit on kitchen roll for a few minutes for the excess oil to drain off. You can then place these on a baking tray and sit them in the middle of the preheated oven to keep warm while you fry off the other batches.
Arancini are best served warm, not hot and are especially good dipped in a good quality tomato relish!
I used a half and half mix of traditional breadcrumbs and panko which are the Japanese version to coat my arancini. Panko is coarser and therefore gives a bit more of a crunch, and can now be found in most supermarkets.
Make sure whichever oil you use has a high smoking point such as vegetable, sunflower or a branded frying oil. This will stop your kitchen filling up with smoke and looking and smelling like an Alice Cooper concert.
Lastly, the best pans for deep frying are made of cast iron as they evenly conduct the heat so you don't get 'cool spots' in your oil.
Risotto Recipe Links