Arancini? I Thought I was Making Croquetas

I’ve been making croquetas for years–it’s a great way to use up leftovers, and we all love them.

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
    1 egg

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!

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7 Responses to Arancini? I Thought I was Making Croquetas

  1. Call them whatever you want, I would eat them! I have to try these. My favorite restaurant, my ‘Cheers’ as it were, always has arancini on the appetizer menu and I always order them. Why I haven’t made them is a mystery. Maybe I thought them more difficult; thanks for the primer. I can do this.

  2. Prajna says:

    This is a wonderful idea! I love “Cooking with Josh!” I can just hear you talking to him — and me! Go, Mark! Love, B

    • joshdaddy says:

      Thanks, Sis–now get your boys in the kitchen, OK?
      And don’t be surprised when your kale and white bean salad shows up here once our CSA shares start showing up this spring!

  3. Heather says:

    Darn, I wish I had read this before I packed lunch this morning – leftover paprika chicken and wild rice. This sounds delish! Maybe I’ll try it tonight as a side dish with what little chicken and rice is left over.

    • joshdaddy says:

      Definitely fine for an appetizer–which would be its more traditional place on the table. We just devour them as a main course. I’m not sure how the wild rice will hold as a quenelle, but give it a shot and let me know how it works out!

  4. mariziyah says:

    the spanish foods are delicious & tasty…. i love it

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