I’ve finally gotten back into doing the challenges from the Daring Kitchen, which is lucky because this month the challenge was Arancine – Italian dumplings made of risotto and stuffed with a meat sauce and fresh mozzarella. These little buggers were a lot of fun to make, and really filling. It was my first time making a risotto, let alone trying to shape and fry it, but the good news is I only set off the fire alarm the one time!
Before we get started on how to actually make these dumplings here’s a shout out to Manu – the Daring Cook who gave us this challenge! January’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was a ball! The lovely Manu from Manu’s Menu brought our taste buds to the streets of Sicily and taught us her family tradition of making Arancine – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!
Now, down to the nitty gritty. Here’s what you will need for Arancine.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cups rice (Arboria, Carnaroli or Vialone – I used Arboria)
4 cups beef stock
1/2 cup of either white wine, water or extra stock (I used water since I didn’t feel like opening a whole bottle of wine for a few drams)
1/2 Parmigiano Reggiano freshly grated (block Parmesan cheese – not the stuff in a green can that people put on pizzas and such. This is an important distinction. You shouldn’t be wasting your time on that canned fakery anyway, once you’ve had the real stuff there’s no going back. Thank me later.)
1 1/2 teaspoons saffron threads (optional)
Prepping the risotto:
1. Pour the stock (4 cups) into a pot and heat until very hot (this way your rice doesn’t cool down and stop cooking when you add the stock later).
2. Cook the onions in a pot on low with the olive oil until they become soft and transparent.
3. Add the rice to the onion and mix well. Cook for 1-2 minutes until your rice starts to become translucent (for those who get confused, transparent is where you can see through the substance, translucent is the ability for light to get through but you can’t actually see anything through the substance.)
4. Add your 1/2 cup of extra liquid to the rice. If this is wine, cook on a high flame for a little bit to cook off the alcohol.
5. Add enough heated stock to cover the rice and cook on medium low.
6. Continue keeping the rice on medium low, stirring occasionally, and adding stock to keep the rice covered (You’ll eventually run out, don’t worry). Cook until the rice is half done (about 13 minutes total) – yes the rice will be crunchy at this point but that’s okay because we’re going to fry it later.
7. At the 8 minute mark add the saffron if you are planning on using it.
8. After 13 minutes, turn the heat off and stir in the butter and Parmigiano Reggiano. Continue stirring until the ingredients are completely incorporated and the risotto is creamy (the rice will still be crunchy. The people wandering in and out of the kitchen while I cooked kept commenting on this: “it’s not creamy there’s still whole rice in it”…ignore them.)
9. Add salt to taste and spread out over a large baking sheet to cool.
Meat Filling (which is mostly veggies and tomatoes…)
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
1 celery stalk
10.5 oz ground beef
7 oz ground pork sausage – the recipe recommends fennel spiced, so I got some Italian spiced ground sausage at the store that had a whole bunch of spices in it. Might be fun to try sweet sausage vs spicy sausage.
50 ml red wine (10 teaspoons approximately, a little less than a quarter cup)
2.5 cups of tomato puree
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups water
pepper and salt to taste
Putting it all together:
1. Finely mince the onion, carrot, and celery.
2. Fry the minced veggies in a pot with the olive oil on low until they are soft – note that you are not trying to caramelize them in any way so they shouldn’t change color during this process.
3. Add the ground meats and cook until they are brown making sure to break up any lumps that form so everything gets well cooked.
4. Raise the heat a bit and add your red wine. Cook until the alcohol has evaporated.
5. Add the tomato puree and paste.
6. Add the water and stir well.
7. Cook on low for approximately 1 hour stirring occasionally or until the sauce becomes quite thick. The original recipe suggested doing this with the lid on, but I did that and had to cook it for another 45 minutes without the lid in an attempt to thicken the sauce. Remember that this is going to be a filling, so it needs to be thick enough for you to spoon into a lump of risotto and not have it run back out over your hands.
8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Alright. Now that you’ve down the prep work, lets roll up our sleeves and get to the fun part – making this stuff into rice dumplings. You’ll need a few more things:
Fresh Mozzarella (a few ounces)
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup flour
An egg white
Lots of vegetable oil
First things before you get your hands dirty, combine the bread crumbs and flour. Feel free the adjust the total amount of this that you think you’ll need but try to keep the ratio at approximately 1 part flour to 1 part breadcrumbs.
Now the fun part. Grab your cooled risotto and make sure the meat sauce is on hand. Also scrub up really well because you’re going to be covered in butter in a minute. Now, separate your risotto into approximately 12 equal portions. (I think I ended up with 14, this isn’t an exact science.) Roll each bit into a ball. Working with one ball at a time, use your fingers to make a hole in the center, compressing the rice around it, basically making a hollow ball. Fill this hollow opening with some of your meat sauce and 1 or two little piece of mozzarella. Close the opening (you may need to steal rice from another dumpling lump here if you’ve added to much filling). Roll gently in your hands to shape into a ball…or leave in whatever interesting shape it’s formed in. I think cubes might be fun next time.
Once all your dumplings are filled and shaped, roll them gently in the egg white (I didn’t but it’s a nice thing to do for even coating of the crumbs). Then roll in the breadcrumb flour mixture. Heat your oil in a large flat pan – once it’s really hot you’ll want to reduce the temp to mediumish – if you don’t do this you’ll follow in my foot steps of setting off every fire alarm in the house and setting part of the pan on fire. Not saying it wasn’t fun, just maybe not recommended for when you’re making dinner. Fry 3-4 dumplings at a time, making sure they are golden brown before turning. Replenish oil as necessary (generally between batches). Serve hot with extra sauce and cheese (Parmesan or mozzarella).
A few other notes (not that I haven’t included plenty already…): These were really filling so I recommend having plenty of people there to eat them. And you’ll have tons of meat sauce and probably uncooked meat (if you live in the states butcher shops are hard to come by so you’ll probably buy packaged ground meat in a grocery store which doesn’t normally come in 7 or 10.5 oz packages) left over so think about freezing it for a later date, or making a big lasagna in the next couple days. Lastly, and definitely most importantly, make sure to turn the heat on your oil down!!
I really can’t stress this enough for a couple reasons – one: if it’s to hot the dumplings will brown to quickly which means the rice won’t actually get to finish cooking and you’ll have crunchy dumplings. Two: hot oil hurts like heck when it lands on your skin and it basically ruins clothes (aprons might be advised here). Three: Hot oil + flour coated things leads to the possibility of tiny lumps of burnt stuff collecting around the edge of the pan. Which will burn and which may (like mine did) spontaneously ignite leading to a pan full of oil and flame in direct contact – this can also happen with plain oil if you get it hot enough. As much as I like fire and playing with it, this is extremely dangerous and I wouldn’t advise anybody try it. I had a firefighter in the house, and have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen given my propensity for igniting stuff, so I wasn’t worried (honestly mine was small enough that I blew it out), but oil fires are very dangerous and you can’t put them out with water – don’t try that because the oil will spread on top of the water and you’ll have a larger fire with a movable base instead a smaller one. If you do light a pan on fire, quickly turn off the heat and run a rag under cold water. Cover the pan with the rag (it should completely cover the pan) to smother the flame and allow the pan to cool completely.
On that note, have fun, and enjoy this Italian version of a stuffed dumpling!