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Arancini "Little Oranges"

Arancini "Little Oranges"

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Makes about 2 dozen.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a recipe in Southern Italian Cooking by Jo Bettoja.

These “Little Oranges” are a Sicilian dish that is not made with oranges. They are stuffed rice croquettes that look a little like oranges when fried. They are complicated, but fun. Larger arancini would serve well as a side dish. Small ones would work nicely on a buffet.

Ingredients:

To Start the Arancini:
4 cups (950ml) water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (1 pound/450g) Arborio Rice
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 large eggs
Pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Béchamel/Balsamella:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup (240ml) milk
2 tablespoons Parmesan or Romano
Salt to taste
For the Filling:
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion; finely chopped (about 4 ounces/110g)
½ cup (about 2 ounces/60g) peas; fresh or frozen
2 ounces (60g) prosciutto or ham; diced
2 ounces (60g) mozzarella cheese; diced
To Finish Arancini:
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups dry bread crumbs
4 cups oil for frying

Directions:

Start cooking the rice by bringing the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the salt and the rice. Return to a boil and stir with a fork. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 15 to 17 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat when tender and the water is absorbed. Allow to cool. Add the cheese, eggs, pepper, and nutmeg. Spread on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic and refrigerate.

To make the Béchamel: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the flour. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the nutmeg and white pepper. Stir in the milk. Return to the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. The sauce should thicken to a “coats a spoon” consistency. Allow to cool a few minutes. Stir in the Parmesan (or Romano) and adjust for salt. To prevent a skin forming on the surface, carefully press plastic wrap onto the surface. Set aside to cool thoroughly.

To start the filling: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and sauté over medium heat until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, cover, and cook over medium-low heat about 6 minutes, a few minutes longer if the peas are frozen. Meanwhile, dice the prosciutto (or ham) and mozzarella cheese to a size about equal to that of the peas. When the peas are cooked, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the prosciutto and mozzarella.

Combine the Béchamel mixture and onion/peas mixture in a bowl. Taste for salt.

To assemble the Arancini: Combine the eggs and salt in a shallow bowl with about 1 or 2 teaspoons of water. Beat with a fork to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl. Shaping the rice croquettes is easier if you wet your hands. Place a heaping tablespoon of rice in the palm of one hand and use your thumb or fingers to shape a depression, such that the rice looks like a small bowl. Put a spoonful of the Béchamel filling mixture into the depression and place more rice on top. Lightly press the top rice down, shaping the croquette into a sphere, being careful not to squeeze too much, lest you squeeze the filling out of the croquette.

Shape larger arancini, about 2 inches in diameter, to serve as a side dish in a meal. Shape smaller croquettes, about 1½ inches, to serve as appetizers or on a buffet.

Roll each croquette in the egg mixture to coat evenly and then roll in the bread crumbs to coat thoroughly. Place on a plate.

Heat the oil in a saucepan to 375°F (190°C). Using a wire strainer, lower the arancini, a few at a time, into the hot oil and fry until browned, turning as necessary, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and keep warm until ready to serve.