As the year is coming to a close and Christmas is near I am absolutely thrilled to FINALLY be able to share this recipe with you. Arancini is a once a year treat in our house though I’m sure I could make it weekly and still have the family asking for more. I prefer to keep them for the extra special holiday of Christmas.
These little balls of fried risotto are the ultimate treat but I really (REALLY) hate deep frying. In fact I’m a bit scared of it though I am getting better. I won’t go on ad nauseam about it, suffice to say there was a childhood event involving a grease fire that is in my mind to this day. It took me years to get up the nerve to deep fry anything. On the plus side it keeps the family and I healthier!
The basis for my arancini is a very simple oven baked risotto. Baking the risotto in the oven takes much less effort than the stove top method and I find that it delivers a slightly more ‘gummy’ texture that is conducive to making the risotto into balls later. I always double this recipe:
Oven Baked Risotto
1 fine diced shallot
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 tbsp dried dill or fresh
Pre-heat oven to 425° F
In an oven proof pan (that has a tight lid) sauté the shallot until it becomes translucent then add the rice and stir to make sure the grains are coated with oil. Pour in wine and let it completely evaporate away. You want the cooked-in flavour of the wine, but not the raw flavour of uncooked wine. Add the stock, salt, and pepper. Bring the risotto to a boil on the stove top, cover tightly then bake in oven for 20 minutes. Keep in mind you may need more cook time if you are doubling the recipe. Remove from oven and stir in dill and Parmesan. Let it cool completely before you continue on to make the arancini.
You could choose not to fill your arancini or you could get creative. I’ve made them with a cube of mozzarella hidden inside but the family always insists that I use smoked salmon and capers as the filling. I don’t really think it’s a traditional Italian combination but I’m French, Hungarian, and German so I’ll just make them to please the family.
For the arancini, you will also need some smoked salmon, a jar of capers, eggs, panko crumbs, and frying oil. I used canola oil but also have used grape seed oil in the past.
Chop up your smoked salmon no larger than 1 cm. You may also need to chop your capers depending on what size you have. Begin to heat your oil in a large heavy bottomed pot on med-high. Beat 3 eggs (to start) in a flat bottomed dredging pan and also place the panko crumbs in a dredging pan. I’ve found the best way to make these is to have everything ready to go before you start frying.
To make the arancini take a handful of the cooled risotto in your hand. Place a piece of salmon and a couple of capers in the middle then close up your hand cupping the risotto around the salmon and capers until you have a ball. Keep working the ball until the risotto looks like it has formed a solid ball completely covering the filling. Roll the ball in the egg wash, then roll it in the panko crumbs. Repeat until you have used up all of the risotto and are ready to begin frying.
I don’t know what temperature my oil was. I just throw a couple of panko crumbs in and if it looks like they are browning up nicely I know the oil is ready. Carefully put six balls in the oil and move them around so they brown evenly. It takes roughly about 8 minutes. Remove carefully allowing oil to drain from the ball before putting it down on paper towel.
Arancini freeze and re-heat really well in the oven. You could serve them with an accompanying sauce such as tomato sauce for the mozzarella risotto or a dill aioli for the smoked salmon and caper arancini.