The only problem is: I have been making arancini all this time and calling them croquetas. I explained this to Josh the other night.
Josh: “What’s for dinner, daddy?”
Josh’s Dad: “I’m making arancini.”
Josh: (Watching me drop breaded quenelles into hot oil): “Looks like you’re making croquetas.”
Josh’s Dad: “Actually, I’ve been calling arancini by the wrong name for years. Croquetas are made with flour, or sometimes potato. Arancini di riso are made with rice.”
Josh: (Watching me drop quenelles into oil): “Looks like croquetas to me. I love croquetas.”
The rest of the family were just as eager to embrace the “new” name for this dish. My guess is that we are going to continue to eat these little tasty morsels for years to come–and that we will continue to call them croquetas.
It’s a little strange for me to think about writing a recipe for arancini. It’s more of a concept than a formula–and as I’ve already said, it’s all about the leftovers. You want to mix together equal portions of leftover, finely chopped meat (I’ve done this dish with leftover pork, ham, chicken, turkey, and beef) and rice. Add to that half a portion of grated Parmesan cheese and one egg. The other night, it was leftover paprika chicken and Spanish rice. Here’s how it turned out:
- 2 1/2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
2 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Heat up a deep, heavy-bottomed frying pan and get 3″ of oil to a good frying temperature. You want a hot oil here, but not smoking. If you’re feeling wealthy, by all means use olive oil.
When your oil is hot enough, form quenelles with a teaspoon. You want to form them pretty tightly so they don’t fall apart in the oil. Roll the quenelles in the breadcrumbs, covering them thoroughly. Knock off any loose breadcrumbs and drop them carefully into the hot oil. Monitor your oil temperature. You don’t want to burn your coating, but if your oil isn’t hot enough, your arancini will start to fall apart.
Fry to a golden brown and place on paper towels to drain any excess oil.
Transfer your arancini to a serving plate and garnish with more grated cheese.
So…why arancini? The word means “little oranges” in Italian. Traditionally, the meat-rice-and -and cheese mixture is colored with a dollop of tomato paste. If I happen to have some handy in the fridge, I will add it–but I’m not going to open up a can for a single teaspoonful.
I have to say, though: between the paprika from the leftover chicken and the annatto coloring from the Spanish rice, those arancini the other night were plenty orange!