As Autumn and Winter draw in here in San Francisco, we’re drawn increasingly to comfort foods. One of the most sinful, but delicious, of these treats is Crocchete di Riso, known more commonly here as Arancini.
We made two versions – one filled with herbed cheese and the other with a rich meat sugo. I liked the way the cheese stayed molten and stringy (read: fun to eat) for a good 20 min after cooking. These were also a touch easier to make than the meat version. Our guests marginally preferred the savory meat-filled ones, though there really weren’t many leftovers of either type..
The process is relatively simple, though we made them a day ahead so that the arancini could set overnight so that they wouldn’t fall apart during cooking.
Crocchete di Riso
adapted from Joyce Goldstein’s book Antipasti
For the Rice:
3 1/2 cups Water
1 1/2 tsp Salt
2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 tsp White pepper, ground
You’ll also need:
1 1/2 cups Breadcrumbs,
2 eggs, 1 cup Flour
Oil for frying
Bring the water and salt to a boil, then add the rice and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes until the water is fully absorbed but the rise is somewhat sticky. Stir in the cheese and pepper, then remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the filling.
For the Meat Filling:
Chop the pancetta and saute it with the onion, carrots and celery until the onion is translucent. Add the Beef and pork and saute until just lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and cook another 15 minutes until the sauce is rich and thick. Set aside to cool.
For the Cheese Filling:
Dice the cheese into 1/2 inch-sized cubes. Mince the herbs, then roll the cheese cubes in the herbs to coat them evenly all over.
To assemble the Crocchete:
Wet your hands thoroughly. Spoon roughly 2 Tbsp of the rice into your palm and gently flatten it to a disk that is about 1/8 inch thick. For me, this pretty much covered most of my palm. Place a spoonful of the sugo or 1 cheese cube in the center of the rice disc.
Fold the sides of the rice up and over the filling. I found it helpful to use my thumb to press into the center to help round out the ball. Gently roll between your hands to even the shape into a tidy sphere. Place on a sheet tray while you repeat the process, using the rest of the rice and filling. I found it best to wet my hands each time to prevent the rice from sticking.
Get out 3 bowls and place the Flour, the Breadcrumbs and the eggs each in its own bowl. Beat the eggs until thoroughly mixed.
One at a time, dip the crochetti into the flour, then the eggs, then roll in the breadcrumbs, coating evenly each time. Place on a wax-paper or parchment-lined sheet tray. When all the balls are coated, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Heat the oven to 200 degrees F and line a heat-proof plate or tray with paper towels. Pour oil into a heavy saucepan to a depth of about 3 inches. Heat to 350 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, test the heat by tossing in a chunk of bread – if it starts to fry immediately, then the oil is hot enough (but take care that it doesn’t over heat either).
Place 2-3 crocchetti into the oil and fry until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon lift them out of the oil 2-3 times while they cook to help make sure that they heat all the way through while cooking adn that the cheese is melted. Overall, it should take 6-7 minutes to fry the arancini.
Place on the paper-lined plate and place in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the crocchetti. Serve while warm.