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Easy Cheesy Arancini

March 1, 2013

Arancini are Italian fried rice balls, usually filled with meat or cheese, and make a delicious side dish or appetizer depending on how big or small you make them. I usually add whatever smallish-size food I have in the house to the rice, like peas, chopped up crispy bacon or pancetta. And I like to fill them with cheese that melts down creamy and stringy, like mozzarella and fontina.

Cheesy, gooey happiness in a ball of fried rice. You're welcome.

Cheesy, gooey happiness in a ball of fried rice. You’re welcome.

My arancini feature Wheat Thin breadcrumbs on the outside and Easy Cheese (yes, that’s the stuff that comes in the spray can) on the inside because I entered these puppies into a recipe contest at the ad agency Digitas for their client Mondelez (who own the Kraft and Nabisco brands). Although I didn’t win the recipe contest, I made it into the top 10 out of more than 100 other recipes, not too bad for my first go at the recipe contest world. This version is delicious but feel free to substitute the Wheat Thins with Italian or plain breadcrumbs and the cheese with anything else you’re in the mood for (a small cube of mozzarella works really well here).

A note on Easy Cheese: I love this stuff. Sorry I’m not sorry. Hand me a gorgeous block of fresh artisanal goat cheese with ashy veins running throughout and I’ll go to town with a piece of bread and a bottle of wine. But nothing really beats indulging in the occasional cheese-product, whether it’s straight up on a cracker or in a queso dip. Now onto the recipe.

Leaning Tower of Cheeza. Thank you Goofy Movie.

Leaning Tower of Cheeza. Thank you Goofy Movie.

Easy Cheesy Arancini
Yield: 16 arancini

3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup thawed frozen peas
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Easy Cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 1/2 cups Wheat Thin breadcrumbs (about 3 cups whole Wheat Thins)
Canola oil, for frying

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bring the broth and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the rice, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and mix in the peas. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Spread the rice on the baking sheet and cool completely in the refrigerator, 30 minutes.DSC_0226

Combine the mozzarella and Easy Cheese in a bowl, set aside.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the cooled rice, parmesan and 2/3 cup of the Wheat Thin crumbs. Pack a 1/4 cup measuring cup with the rice mixture. Take half of the rice mixture and make a patty with it. Make a little indent in the middle of the rice patty. Place 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the indent you created. Place the remaining rice that you measured out on top of the first to create a ball of rice, encasing the cheese. Repeat for the remaining rice balls.

It's messy, but worth it!

It’s messy, but worth it!

Heat 3 inches of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F.

Put the remaining breadcrumbs in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Roll the rice balls in the crumbs to coat completely and place on a sheet tray. Allow the rice balls to rest in the refrigerator while the oil heats up.DSC_0232

Working in batches, fry the balls until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Immediately after removing from the oil, sprinkle salt over the top of the arancini. Serve immediately.

They look so fancy you wouldn't even guess that my arancini are made with Wheat Thins and Easy Cheese.

They look so fancy you wouldn’t even guess that my arancini are made with Wheat Thins and Easy Cheese.

Cook’s Notes: You can also make this with 3 cups pre-cooked rice, as long as it’s very sticky. Chinese or Japanese takeout leftovers would be perfect for this.

If you’re making this recipe ahead of time, undercook the arancini slightly and cool completely. Reheat them in a 350 degrees F oven until hot through, 10 to 15 minutes.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 29, 2013 9:14 pm

    I want to eat all of them. Your friend over at Foodinese.

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