Monday, December 5, 2016

Fried Pumpkin and Sage Arancini

AKA Festive Balls of Happiness!

That's what these are, and I would love it if I could perhaps insist that you add these to your holiday party menu.

Fried Pumpkin and Sage Arancini is the exact type of recipe we need in our arsenal this type of  year. Indulgent and bursting with flavor. Crunchy yet creamy, salty and a tiny bit sweet. This is the recipe that will take center stage on your buffet table and impress your guests for days after.

About a year ago, we first dipped our toes into the world of homemade arancini. It was a little bit scary, but we learned a lot. We learned that arancini, in any form, is totally delicious and will most definitely fly off the table. We learned you can't eat just one. We also learned that, no matter how much we doubt it, arancini is actually not all that difficult to make. With a little planning and a little patience, we all can do it - seriously, we can!

I should also tell you that you can make these ahead, freeze 'em, and then reheat them when you are getting ready to serve them!  Simply follow the entire recipe below, cool the arancini completely, then store in between layers of parchment paper in a freezer bag. Once frozen, they will keep for about 2 months. When ready to serve, place them on a rack set over a baking dish and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until hot throughout. See!? As if the golden brown crust and oozing centers didn't convince you, this proves that these really are the perfect party appetizer!

Here's what you need for Fried Pumpkin and Sage Arancini* (Print Recipe!)

for the risotto
4 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken broth, warmed
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

for the arancini
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a splash of water
1/2 cup seasoned italian breadcrumbs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 gallon vegetable oil
sea salt

other tools
jelly roll pan
Heavy pot, such as a 5 quart dutch oven
candy thermometer
slotted spoon or spider skimmer

Here's what you do

for the risotto
In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and sage and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender and fragrant stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the arborio rice and toast for about 90 seconds. Slowly add the white wine, stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed (about a minute or two). Add 5 cups of the warmed chicken broth. Stir together then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring a few times. Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, stir in the pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon and warm through.

Turn off the heat, then gently but thoroughly stir in the cheese and parsley. Season as desired. Since the arancini is deep fried, I like to use a slightly heavier hand with the salt and red pepper flakes since it will hold up well. Spoon the risotto onto the jelly roll pan or a rimmed baking sheet and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.

for the arancini
Place the flour in a shallow bowl or dish. Beat the eggs in a separate shallow bowl. Finally, combine the breadcrumbs and some salt and pepper in a third shallow bowl or dish. Using a medium cookie scoop, roll the risotto into 2-inch balls. Dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess; repeat with the egg mixture. Finally, coat each ball in the breadcrumbs and place on a clean baking sheet. Repeat until all the risotto is used up, then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While the arancini chills, fill your dutch oven with the vegetable oil. Fit the candy thermometer to the side of the pot and submerge in the oil, being sure not to touch the bulb to the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees farenheit.

Line a large plate with paper towels. Using a spider skimmer, slowly submerge 4 or 5 rice balls into the oil, being careful not to splash the hot oil! Cook until golden brown on all sides, gently stirring the balls once or twice to ensure even browning. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate and immediately sprinkle with salt. Bring oil back up to temperature then repeat with remaining arancini. I got about 30 rice balls from this batch of risotto.

Serve immediately or at room temperature with marinara sauce.

Note: Traditional risotto is cooked by gradually stirring a cup or so of broth into the rice until all the broth is used up. Since we are deep-frying this risotto, it is less important that we abide by this traditional cooking method, so we can make this more like regular rice.

*Gas Stove Girl Original Recipe, heavily based on this original recipe.

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