January’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was a ball! The lovely Manu from Manu’s Menu brought our taste buds to the streets of Sicily and taught us her family tradition of making arancine – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!
We’ve actually made arancine before, way back in November 2010: however, we were delighted to revisit these tasty treats as we rarely get the opportunity to make fried food. This time, our daring host Manu (www.manusmenu.com) provided recipes from her Italian family, and we were spoiled for choice: Arancine al Ragu, Arancine al Burro or Arancine agli Spinaci. We chose the spinach option, because putting those greens in the middle makes it a healthy dish, right?
We made a bit less than the published recipe, using only 2 cups of Arborio rice instead of 3: we still had ample arancine for a party of four and plenty of leftovers as well. First up was the saffron risotto. We used a relatively small dose of saffron but the risotto still turned out to have a delicate yellow color and flavor:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
2-3 cups beef stock
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Heat the stock. Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft and transparent, add the rice and continue to cook until the rice becomes translucent. Add the wine and reduce on medium high heat to burn off the alcohol, then add some stock (to just cover the rice) and turn the heat to low.
Cook until the rice is a bit more than halfway cooked – 13 minutes according to Manu’s recipe – adding stock as needed. After 8 minutes, add the saffron. Then, when the rice is done (but still firm) add the butter and cheese, season and spread on a baking paper to cool (we used a silicone mat):
Make a cup of bechamel sauce (1 oz butter, 1 oz flour, 1 cup milk, nutmeg and salt). Saute a chopped clove of garlic with a little butter, then add 6 oz spinach leaves and cook over low heat until wilted. The spinach does down to nothing! Add enough bechamel and ~2 oz grated mozzarella cheese to make a thick sauce/paste.
Next, prepare the arancine balls by making a little pocket in a handful of the saffron risotto, adding the spinach and cheese mixture and closing it up:
Almost done! Roll the arancine in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs (one after the other, in that order)…
… then shallow fry in vegetable oil until the outsides are crisp and golden:
Delicious! Thanks, Manu, for a great challenge.