This is the first recipe I’ve ever made from The Australian Gourmet Traveller. An unremarkable fact, perhaps, if you didn’t know that I’ve been subscribing to the Gourmet Traveller since 1997. Wow. That’s kind of embarrassing. I’ve learnt a lot from them, I think… And I LOVE reading them, but somehow the reading ends up satiating my curiosity. Or, maybe it’s because I’ve just got no good way to keep track of the recipes. Has anyone else tackled this problem with their favourite recipe mag and be willing to offer me a solution?
Regardless, there is a first time, and this is it. and MAN was it worth it. Until now, I’ve made ‘arancini’ occasionally, when I’ve had leftover risotto. They’ve been thoroughly underwhelming. These arancini are on the opposite end of the scale. They’re strangely light, as if, after biting through their crunchy coating you might float off on a risotto cloud. And the flavour of thyme and provolone (the wonderful cheese is pictured above) is fresh and pervasive, in an entirely good way.
Provolone Piccante Arancini with Thyme and Basil Aioli
- 50 ml olive oil
- 1/4 onion, finely chopped
- 200 gm arborio rice
- 750ml hot organic chicken stock
- 20 ml (an Australian tablespoon) finely chopped thyme
- 50gm parmegiano reggiano, finely grated
- 30gm salted or unsalted organic butter
- 40gm provolone piccante, with 15gm finely grated
- about 1-2 cups plain flour for dusting the arancini
- 2 organic freerange eggs, lightly beaten, for coating the arancini
- 250gm fine soft white breadcrumbs, for coating the arancini
- 1-2L sunflower oil, for deep frying
- aioli (the recipe I’ve linked to here is for homemade mayonnaise, to which you simply add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic to begin) with fresh basil leaves, to serve
First, warm the olive oil in a deep saucepan over a medium flame. When hot, add the onion and saute, gently, until it’s transparent and soft.
Add the rice, stir it through the onion to coat the grains in oil, and then add the stock, very gradually, stirring, keeping the rice on a low simmer, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is ever so slightly over cooked. That’s right, over cooked. I think this is so the texture of the finished arancini is soft, and the next additions of cheese and butter (rather than being absorbed by the rice) coat the rice in a creamy sauce.
So now add the thyme, parmesan and the 15gm of finely grated provolone piccante. Stir for 2 minutes, until the rice is creamy with the additions. Check for seasoning before spreading the mixture onto a tray to cool. When cooled to room temperature, cover in clingwrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours, or overnight.
Meanwhile, cut the remaining provolone into tiny cubes, around 5mm in diametre. Take the cold rice and scoop up a walnut sized glob into your hand. Roll into a ball, press your finger into the centre and push one provolone cube into the hole. Roll into a ball in your palms again, and then place on a sheet of baking paper. Continue until you’ve made balls out of the rest of the mixture.
Now to coat- fill 3 shallow bowls, one each with the flour, the beaten eggs and the breadcrumbs, and set them up in that order. Take a ball, coat it in flour and dust off the excess if necessary. Then roll the ball in egg until it’s coated. Then drop it into the breadcrumbs and toss it around until, again, it’s entirely coated. Set it aside on another piece of baking paper and continue on until all the arancini are coated.
Cover with cling wrap again, and refrigerate until cold (at least 30 minutes).
Fill a deep saucepan two thirds full with the sunflower oil, and preheat on a medium flame. When some breadcrumbs sprinkled into the oil sizzle immediately, you know you’re around the right temperature. Deep fry the arancini in small batches, making sure that they steadily cook but don’t brown too quickly. They should take between 3-5 minutes to turn a deep golden colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.
Serve the arancini warm, or at room temperature, with a bowlful of aioli.
I’ve also served them as a light lunch with a salad of roasted pumpkin, garden peas and wilted kale, with aioli to accompany.