Arancini = Italian rice balls = deep fried rice/cheese/butter/beef yumminess! When I first joined the family, Mr. Fix-it's mom fixed these for a holiday and they quickly became a favorite of mine. They also led to a slightly uncomfortable discussion about rice, lol. She wanted to know where to buy "cheap broken rice" to make rice balls because it was stickier than regular rice. Hmmmm, I don't buy cheap broken rice and had no idea there was such a thing, which she didn't quite understand because she figured that I'm Chinese and should know about these things. She was not interested in my suggestion to use short grain rice, which is stickier than long grain rice. No matter, her rice balls were still delicious, no matter what rice she used.
We went to visit the Aunties this weekend so we thought we'd surprise them by making rice balls. We hadn't made them in two? three? years so were a bit out of practice, but they turned out well and the Aunties were so surprised. Uncle J wasn't there so they planned to freeze some of the leftovers for him. Isn't that sweet? Not that we couldn't make them again for the next visit.
Plus, I learned a bit of family trivia on the drive home. It turns out Mr. Fix-it's mom introduced rice balls to his dad's side of the family. For some reason, I thought it was the other way around. Now everybody love 'em! So enough babbling; here's the recipe (with lots of notes).
Rice "shell" ingredients
1 pound (3 cups) short grain rice
1 quart water
Pinch of saffron for color (optional)
2 egg yolks (save the whites for later)
1/4 pound of butter (1 stick), cut into pieces
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1/4 cup pine nuts
Bread crumb coating ingredients
3 cups fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (the stuff in the green can, not the good stuff, lol)
salt, pepper, parsley, garlic powder, optional
Oil for frying
1. Cook rice with the saffron in the water. I've cooked the rice over the stove and in a rice cooker and it turns out well either way. Just be sure the rice is quite dry when it is cooked.
2. Prepare filling: Saute onion in a bit of olive oil until softened. Add ground beef and brown. Remove any excess grease (I didn't have any since I used ground sirloin). Add tomato paste, pine nuts, and seasonings. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings.
4. Lightly beat the egg whites (you'll need them in step 7). Note that I needed three additional egg whites. I suppose you could use whole eggs too.
5. Add the egg yolks, butter, and Parmesan cheese to the rice. Let cool just enough so that you can handle the rice mixture.
6. Form the balls: Coat your hands (just the palms and fingers) with a little oil. Spread a heaping tablespoon or so in the palm of your hand. Make a depression in the middle and place about a teaspoon of the filling in the center. Add another teaspoon of rice on top to form a ball.
7. Roll the ball in the bread crumbs, then into the egg white, then back in the bread crumbs. Place on waxed paper until you're ready to deep fry them. We ended up with 24 rice balls.
8. Deep fry in vegetable oil until light golden brown. I fried them at 335°F for about 3-4 minutes. Place on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
We ended up with over a cup of bread crumbs leftover so if you wanted to start with less, you could. But bread crumbs aren't expensive and I think having the extra made it easier to coat the rice balls.
We also ended up with almost two cups of filling leftover. Next time, we'll either use less meat, try to add more filling, or double the rice shell mixture and make more rice balls.