Thursday, May 9, 2013

Risotto Balls

I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, but I’m just going to say it flat out. I think that my risotto balls are the best. Toot toot!

These risotto balls are famous (at least in my family) and I make them a lot, especially on holidays. One of the main reasons why I've held back on posting about them is that I never really had a set “recipe.” I pretty much make a standard risotto and then add as much butter and Parmesan as I want until it tastes delicious. Of course, there’s a little more to making risotto balls than that, so I finally wrote down a recipe. But I will suggest keeping some extra butter and Parmesan on the side. You know, just in case.

To prepare the risotto balls, I start with a traditional white wine-spiked parmesan risotto, which I make sure is a little tighter than it typically should be. A well-made risotto is creamy but not thick, and smooth but not thin. In other words, it should spread a little when spooned onto a plate, not stand on its own. You’ll know you hit the right balance, when the risotto moves and ripples like a wave when you shake the pan. This is called all’onda (“wave”) in Italian. For risotto balls, I cook the risotto just past all’onda (emphasis on just), then cool, so that the rice holds together well when shaped.

Just a quick side note about risotto: Despite its reputation for being kind of a fancy dish, it is practically the easiest thing in the world to make. There is somewhat of an art to it, but it’s nothing the average Joe couldn't master. I did, after all. The result you want is for the rice (Arborio) to be fully cooked through while simultaneously holding the perfect consistency. The trick is to gradually add simmering hot stock, and to constantly, and quite vigorously, stir between each addition to develop the starch. All it takes is a little sweat and elbow grease. You’ll achieve extra richness and creaminess at the end by “finishing” with the butter and cheese.

I do not add meat ragu or peas to my risotto balls like it’s done in the traditional Sicilian way, though I very easily could. I choose not to because I feel that the risotto is so flavorful, that it speaks well enough on its own. So creamy, and cheesy, it is complimented only by the crispy panko breading. One surprise I do hide in the center is a tiny block of Fontina cheese, which melts ever-so-rightly when fried.

Just like making a meatball, I form the risotto with my hands, stuffing a cube of Fontina into each one as I go along. At about 2 ½”- 3” they are just the right size, so you can pop them into your mouth one after the other—and believe me, you’ll want to. Fun fact: Risotto balls are also called arancini, meaning “little oranges” in Italian, which describes their ideal size and shape perfectly. We’re having a regular language lesson today! A little breading of eggs and seasoned panko breadcrumb, and they’re ready to be fried. I deep-fry mine at 325-250 degrees to get them golden on the outside and melted on the inside.

The simple cheesy goodness of these risotto balls makes them the perfect appetizer, side dish, or snack. And when it’s a holiday, stack ‘em up high so that everyone can get a few. They can easily be made in advance and reheated. You’re welcome!

Risotto Balls:
Yield: About 12, 2 ½”-3” risotto balls
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons butter, plus 2 tablespoons for finishing
- ½ cup finely chopped shallots
- 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fontina cheese, cut into 12 cubes
- 1 quart canola or other fryer-friendly oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- About 1 cup panko breadcrumb, seasoned with salt, pepper, and ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1) In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and stir to completely coat in the butter shallot mixture. Lightly toast the rice, stirring continually, about 2 minutes.
2) Add the white wine, stirring continually, until almost fully absorbed by the rice. Using a ladle, add about ½ cup of the hot chicken stock to the rice at a time, stirring continually, making sure that each addition is fully absorbed before adding the next. Continue the process until all of the chicken stock has been used, or the rice is fully cooked and tender, about 25 minutes.
3) Remove the mixture from the heat. While it is still warm, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, and the chopped fresh parsley, until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be slightly thick and creamy. Spread out on a sheet tray and cool completely before wrapping in plastic and refrigerating. Refrigerate 2 hours-overnight.
4) Preheat the frying oil to about 325-350 degrees. Form the cooled risotto into balls about 2½”-3”, stuffing a cube of the Fontina cheese into each. Roll each ball in the egg, then dredge in the seasoned breadcrumb. Fry until they are golden on the outside and the cheese is melted on the inside. If not serving immediately, reheat before serving.
**To plan ahead for a holiday or party: Make the risotto a day or two in advance (doubling the recipe if necessary) and refrigerate. On the day before the holiday/party or the day of, assemble and fry. Reheat in a 350 degree oven before serving.


Adam said...

These look delicious!!!

Anonymous said...

They do look yum