... Starts with good Risotto. This is the most delicious way to use your leftover risotto. We made a fresh flavoured risotto using homemade vegetable stock, all the usual alliums; garlic, onion, shallots - fennel, a generous heap of parmigiana, and a good glass of rhone style white wine (marsanne, roussanne, viognier blend from our local wine region). Find the veg stock recipe here.
Arancini are a great starter or a main course, you can decide. For this crab stuffed variation, we served them as a main with Aioli (recipe here) and a side of roasted lemony brussels sprouts, because that is what we had available on this snowy late fall evening. I would suggest that a fresh fennel salad would be great too.
This base recipe for risotto is also shared here, where the fennel is removed and you learn tips for making variations based on what is in your fridge and in season. We use an italian imported rice called carnaroli, but we recommend that you try any local rice you can get. The consistency will likely change, as the traditional variety is short grain, and has a lot of starch, making it creamy, but so what?! That is the fun of innovating on tradition with what you have at your disposal.
For the Risotto:
3 1/2 cups short-grain rice (Vialone Nano, Carnaroli or Arborio)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 small onion (cipollini, vidallia are great)
5 cloves garlic
1 small fennel bulb (or half a large one)
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
sea salt, to taste
4 sprigs chopped flat leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Filling:1 cup dungeness crab meat (pre-cooked)
1 cup mozzarella
For the arancini balls:Canola oil (fill a medium sized non-stick frying pan with 1 inch of oil)
1 cup fine bread crumbs (use a stale baguette or italian loaf, dehydrated in oven, then grind in vitamix or other food processor - you can also buy these at a mediterranean market or from your local bakery)
1/3 cup of water
pinch of salt
Serve with Aioli (recipe here)
Finely chop your garlic, onion, fennel and shallot. Heat a large heavy bottom pan, at medium heat, and melt your butter. Add the fennel, onion, shallot and saute until they are transparent. Add the garlic last so you don't toast/burn it. Let it cook until the garlic is tender. Add your rice to the pan and stir the mixture together. Now is when you will stir and stir, and stir... and stir. Pour in your cup of wine, and continue to stir. Add the finely grated parmigiana as you stir. Start pouring in your stock, only as fast as the rice mixture absorbs it. The full stir-in process should take around 25 minutes. So, basically a half cup of liquid at a time. Once you finish adding the stock, check the consistency of the rice. It should still be quite hard after 20 minutes. What you want is a firm rice bite, al dente. Add the water as you need it, the rice will be cooked and there should be some liquid remaining in small creamy pools around the rice. Salt the risotto taste. Throw in a handful of fresh parsley. This is where the risotto would go straight to plate. But for Arancini, we want to mimic the state it would be in as a "left over" - somewhat dryer and a little more cooked (softer bite). So continue to stir the risotto and let the remaining sauce be soaked up by the rice. Turn the heat off, and set your risotto aside.
Ready your battering station. Whisk the two eggs, with the water in a bowl. Set aside. Place your bread crumbs in a bowl. Set aside.
Place your dungeness crab and your mozarella in bowls.
Once your risotto has cooled (just enough that you can handle it with your hands to form the balls) go ahead and fill your non-stick frying pan an inch deep with canola oil. Turn it to medium heat and get the oil hot, before you start frying. Have a plate with paper towel on it, ready for the balls once they are cooked.
First step in forming the balls, place one tablespoon of risotto in the palm of your hand and pat it out to roughly cover the centre of your palm. Take around 1 tsp of each, crab meat and mozarella, and drop in centre of your hand over the risotto "patty" start to cup it, add another teaspoon or so of risotto and close up the filling by forming a ball. It should be about the size of a golf ball. It is up to you, but we like this size for its flavour and texture ratio. Drop the ball in your egg/water batter, then roll into your bread crumbs. Form all the balls, then start frying them, so you can take care to cook them evenly, constantly turning them with tongs to get a nice even golden brown crust. Once they are done, serve them quickly, while the cheesy middle is still gooey-good. To serve them casually, place them on a platter with dishes of aioli ready for your guests. To elevate the plating for a more formal dinner, take your serving dish, make a small dollop of aioli on the plate for each arancini to sit into, to secure it to the plate. Finish with a dollop of aioli on top, and if you have a piece of the fennel frond remaining garnish your arancini with it, or with a fresh sprig of parsley. Enjoy!