Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, filled with friends, family and delicious food. My Christmas certainly complied with the last of those three things, mostly thanks to the wonderful fried items seen above. I gorged myself on these before dinner, and as a result, when it came time to tackle the main course, I was not a member of the clean plate club. Which was a bit of a shame, because the rest of the meal - leg of lamb roasted with rosemary, garlic, sage and thyme, fresh papradelle with salsa di pomodoro, and rapini - was delicious as well. Still, I have no regrets that I ate four arancini before dinner, they were just that good.
by Michael Chiarello, from Bottega
3 cups leftover risotto
1½ cups Blanched-Basil Pesto (recipe follows)
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups panko
Peanut, corn or canola oil, for frying
Line a half-sheet pan or baking tray with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together the pesto and risotto. Divide the rice into 16 equal portions. An ice-cream disher works well here. Pinch off about ½ teaspoon of mozzarella and ball up one serving of rice around the cheese, ensuring that the cheese is completely enclosed by the rice. Place on the parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining 15 balls of rice. Place the arancini in the refrigerator for at least one hour before frying.
Set up your frying station. Place the eggs, flour and panko in separate bowls. Line a platter with paper towels and place it in a convenient location so that the arancini can be transferred easily out of the fryer. Fill a large pot or Dutch oven no more than ⅓ full with the oil, and heat to 375 degrees. A candy or frying thermometer is essential here to maintain the proper temperature throughout the frying process. Also, if you don't have one, a wok skimmer / strainer is another great tool for getting the arancini in and out of the oil.
Dredge each rice ball in the flour and lightly pat off the excess. Then roll in the egg, and finally the panko. Gently add 4 arancini at a time to the oil, and fry until lightly browned, about 90 seconds. Do not overcook, or else the cheese will leak out into the oil. Which you don't want.
Serve immediately with your favorite tomato sauce, garnished with a little grated parmesan.
6 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 cups lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
This recipe will slightly more pesto than you need for the arancini.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Set up a large bowl of ice water. Add the herbs to the boiling water and move them around to ensure even cooking. Blanch for 15 seconds, then remove the herbs to the ice bath, moving them around to ensure even cooling. Let cool in the ice bath for another 15 seconds, and drain. With your hands, squeeze any excess water from the herbs. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
Transfer the herbs to a food processor, and pureé with the oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pepper until well blended and mostly smooth. Add the cheese and pulse a few times to combine. Transfer to a bowl, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.