So, do you know what is better than creamy risotto? Fried creamy risotto!!
Arancini means little oranges in Italian, because they look like little oranges. Do not be fooled, although little oranges are delicious, these do NOT taste like little oranges. They taste like warm puppies on your lap, new shoes on sale and being kissed in the rain. Seriously though, they taste like fried risotto and cheese with hints of lemon and fennel. Which is better, I can’t decide. For this recipe I like to use leftover risotto so next time you make it, save a little and you can make arancini with it. You remember how to make risotto right? You could make it fresh too, you have the recipe.
Risotto got it. Lemons, no big deal. Cheese, yup already in my mouth. I know what you’re worried about, it’s this fennel business. Do not fret let me elaborate.
Fennel is a member of the parsley family and is native to the Mediterranean, which is why it does so well to California’s climate. The entire plant is used from the layered-onion like bulb, the bright green stalks, feathery leaves and powdery yellow flowers. Not everyone likes the licorice flavor of fennel, but its crunchiness in salads and delicate flavor when cooked are worth learning to admire. Sliced fennel bulb is often placed on a Mediterranean table after supper so that diners can cleanse their palates (and get ready for dessert – isn’t that what everything is about). I use fennel seeds a lot in my cooking, since it is used to make a lot of sausages, I use it to give soups and pastas a sausage-y flavor even though there is no sausage, you dig. Sneaky, I know but hey you can’t eat salty pork parts in every meal.
I have another secret -- my little sister is so super fancy. She is THE Glitterati. She gets mistaken for Penelope Cruz and everything she tries on looks effortlessly good on her. She came to San Francisco and I planned an elaborate dinner for her (secretly to fatten her up). A series of Tapas, and it was going to start with arancini, marinated white beans and a little salad of melon, basil and prosciutto. I am sure it would have been amazing if she wasn’t too busy and that magical dinner would have actually happened. I still love her; I’ll just have to eat them by myself.
Now here are instructions on how to make Arancini and impress your fashionista sister:
· Mince ½ of the fennel bulb and stalk
· Zest one lemon completely
(or orange would be delicious too!)
· Mix in with about 2 cups leftover risotto
· Mold this mixture around about
½ ounce of cheese (pecorino was my choice but any hard cheese would work).
· Dip into 2 whisked eggs
· Dip into seasoned (salt & pepper) Panko Bread Crumbs (I think making a couple, dipping them in egg and then laying them in the dish with the bread crumbs and then covering them with crumbs all at once is your best move)
· Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. (so they won't fall apart when you fry them)
· Heat enough oil to submerge each ball completely (about three inches)
· Cook until browned and heated through, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Eat immediately.