Delicious Balls of GoodnessFriday, October 4
Trends in the restaurant world come and go.
In recent years we have seen buzz words like nose to tail, farm to fork and eat local get beaten to death. We have seen the resurrection of the lost art of charcuterie, and things like pork belly had their moment in the spotlight.
One trend that seems to have hit the scene in the past year or so would be the rise of the arancini. The humble ball of rice that dates back to 10th century Italy has made it’s way back into the mainstream, landing on menus more frequently. Today’s arancini is most often prepared with risotto rice and can be filled with just about anything under the sun. Then they are breaded and deep-fried.
My first experience with them was thanks to one of my most talented sous chefs, Tony Le. He prepared a delicious interpretation of them, featuring fresh lobster and spring peas as a special treat for my wife and I to enjoy at our wedding reception. I have to say it was love at first bite. Ever since that day I have been playing with different variations of them for special events, hors d’oeuvres, and VIP guests. They are so simple and fun, but can pack a real wallop of flavour.
They have even become so popular that we have developed a small cult following on twitter of guests that love to come in for them. Every time we know these guests are coming in we put together a different arancini for them to start their meal off. Just last week I actually had to “talk” one of our great ambassadors through the process of making risotto for the first time. It wasn’t until I had to do it 140 characters at a time that I realized just how overwhelming the prospect of making these delicious little bites could be for someone who is unfamiliar with the process. So, this week, I share with you my take on Chef Tony’s creation. Keep in mind that anything you can enjoy in risotto, you can make into risotto balls.
Lobster and Green Pea Arancini with Saffron Oil
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Cooling Time: 60 minutes
Prepares: About 40 arancini
This dish requires three unique steps that all require a fair amount of skill and a little bit of attention to detail. I will try my best to walk you through it step by step, keeping it as simple as possible for you. As far as the stock to use for the recipe there are a few options. We at the restaurant prepare lobster stock for our lobster mac n’ cheese, so we use that when making these. Preparing a lobster stock from scratch can require some work, and it can also stink up your house, but if you are up for the challenge then you could buy whole lobsters, use the meat to fold into the risotto and make the shells into a stock. If you aren’t feeling up to all of the extra work, you can simply use a light fish stock, or even a light chicken stock, if all else fails.
1 large shallot, minced
4 Tbsp. butter
2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups stock, lobster, fish or if need be, chicken
1 cup green peas, fresh if you can, frozen if you have to
8 oz. cooked lobster meat
1 cup parmesan
¼ cup raw butter
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup milk
1 cup flour
5 cups panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch saffron threads (about 8)
½ tsp. hot water
½ cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 parmesan, for shaving for garnish
First, we must begin by making a risotto
Place stock in pot and bring to a simmer
Meanwhile, place another medium sauce pot onto medium heat
Add the 4 Tbsp. of butter and melt, then add the minced shallot and sauté until translucent, but do not brown
Quickly add the Arborio rice, and stir to coat the rice with the butter
Deglaze with white wine, allow to reduce
Now, this is where it gets a little tricky, add the stock, ladle by ladle, while continuing to stir as you go
Allow the rice to absorb the stock, and then add some more, do not add it all in at once, this is referred to cooking rice using the risotto method
Be gentle while stirring, the combination of the starch from the rice, and the stock will create a natural creaminess to the dish
As the rice gets closer to being cooked add less and less stock each time, to ensure that you don’t end up having too much stock when your rice is the right texture, what’s the right texture you ask? Just like pasta, it should be cooked al dente, or to the tooth, but in this case, because we are going to cool it down, and then cook it again when it is fried, we will cook it about one minute less
As you approach the perfect texture fold in the lobster meat, followed by the fresh peas
Lastly you will fold in the grated parmesan and the raw butter, stirring until it’s melted and combined
Now, quickly spread the risotto out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate to cool and stop the cooking
Once the risotto is completely cooled it is time to start forming it into the balls, you can use a small ice cream scoop, or simply form one inch round balls by hand
Now it’s time to bread them, to do so you will need to prepare a breading station, using three bowls
n the first bowl place the flour and season it
In the second bowl, combine the eggs and milk, season and whisk together
In the third bowl place the panko bread crumbs
Lastly, set up a tray to place the breaded risotto balls onto
Now, keeping one hand clean, one by one place the risotto balls in the flour, rolling it to cover it, then dust it off and place in the egg mixture, dripping it off, and then lastly into the bread crumbs, coating all sides evenly
Place it on the tray and repeat with the remaining risotto
At this point the risotto balls can be refrigerated for up to one day, but can also be frozen for up to one month, and then fried right from frozen
Time to whip up a delicious saffron aioli to enjoy these tasty treats with!
Place the saffron threads in small bowl and add the hot water
Allow to stand for 5 minutes
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine, adjust seasoning and refrigerate until ready to serve
All of the hard work is done, now it’s time to put everything together!
Preheat the deep fryer to 335F
Place the arancini in the fryer batch by batch, being sure not to overcrowd the fryer
Fry until golden brown and hot all the way through, about 3 minutes
Remove from the fryer and place on a paper towel lined dish, season
To serve, smear the plate with a streak of saffron aioli and then place the aracini on top
Grate some fresh parmesan over the risotto balls and serve while still hot.