Brown Rice Arancini
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to happen upon an entire pot of untouched day-old brown rice. Steamed and sticky to perfection.
Happen upon, you might ask? You see, I have a boyfriend who likes to cook what he calls eco-rice. This kind of rice ensures that as little heat, i.e. energy, as possible is used, employing instead patience and time for an excellent result. Just dump a kilo or so of brown rice in a pot, add water (no matter exactly how much), bring to a boil and leave on for a couple of minutes, turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for… well, that depends. Until all the water is absorbed, so, at least a few hours but if you are in our house, probably a day or more. Best is an electric stovetop for this purpose, one of the few things it is better than gas for.
Paul has admitted he buys and cooks rice just because he thinks it looks healthy. So he tends to cook it without actually imagining an end result, in other words just to have it around in case inspiration arises. In case. And sometimes it does just that– sits around. It is almost infuriating to me, as someone who consistently overthinks how rice should be cooked, that it can some out so perfectly with such little effort. I mean, how people can obsess over rice! To soak, to toast, to rinse, to double rinse, to salt, to parboil…. the possibilities are myriad and, let’s be honest, ridiculous, once you have tried eco-rice.
But back to my story: when I happened upon this pot of lovely brown rice, with a Dritte Mitte aperitivo fast approaching, I dipped in a spoon and a little parade of arancini began to dance in circles before my eyes. It was already so sticky and gelatinous that the answer to this unaccounted for rice was obvious.
Usually arancini are made with cooked risotto. The Italians, being masters of the leftover, have from their already delicious risotto, developed something even more toothsome. Although I suppose if you cheese, batter and fry just about anything, you can turn an eight into a 10 without fail.
Feel free to go the traditional route and use cooked risotto/Arborio rice. All I’m implying is that if you choose to get creative, go ahead and use any rice you like, so long as it’s well cooked (ideally day-old) and relatively sticky. All you need to do at that point is mix the rice with a bit of egg, flour, finely grated Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Then form a small, compact ball around a square of mozzarella, bread with fine breadcrumbs and fry in a neutral oil. A quick note about the salt: I felt that my arancini were undersalted, even though I added quite a bit into the mixture. I attribute this to the fact that the original pot of eco-rice was not salted at all. Therefore, I would recommend salting your pot of rice to taste to ensure you have the right amount in the final arancini.
1 kilo brown rice, cooked as instructed, ideally leftover
150 grams finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup flour
2 cups of finely grated breadcrumbs (or more as needed)
approx. 2 balls fresh mozzarella, cut into small squares
neutral oil for frying
pepper and salt to taste
- Place a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add enough vegetable oil to rise 4 inches in the pot.
- In a large bowl mix together the cooked rice, Parmesan cheese, 1 egg, flour, salt and pepper
- Form a small ball of the rice mixture around a cube of mozzarella. Make sure that it is compact (squeeze a bit) so that it does not dissolve when placed in the oil. Repeat with the remainder of the rice mixture.
- Whisk together the remaining 2 eggs. Dip each arancini in the eggs and then in the breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot enough (you can try one as a sample- if it starts to sizzle, not spatter when placed in the oil, it’s a good temperature), place a few of the balls in the oil and cook through until browned on the outside.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked balls and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining rice balls.
Ideally serve warm and with a light tomato sauce.