January 10, 2008


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Italian street food in NH
Arancini pop up at area restaurants
By Linda A. Odum food@hippopress.com

Arancini are popping up on Italian restaurant menus all over southern New Hampshire.

These fried rice balls originated in Sicily, though they are prepared throughout southern Italy.

“It’s a very Sicilian dish,” said chef John Lockwood, owner of Don Giovanni in Concord. “The name means small orange. Sicily is like the Florida of Italy. They are fried to a dark brown, and look like a small orange.”

Arancini are considered casual fare in Italy, not often prepared at home. Italians buy them at friggitorias, places which serve a variety of fried foods.

“They literally hand it to you on a piece of parchment paper,” Lockwood said. “You hold it in one hand, a napkin in the other, and you walk down the street.”

Lockwood said the Sicilians, known to be frugal people, used a simple mixture of Arborio rice and parmesan cheese. The dish he serves is in the Neapolitan style — Arborio rice, parsley, parmesan cheese, and Ragu’ alla Bolognese, with mozzarella in the center.

These rice balls can be made with any number of flavor combinations. Z Food and Drink in Manchester uses sun-dried tomatoes and a smoked paprika romesco sauce. At Pizzico Restorante in Nashua, they use ground beef, peas and sauce. All of these restaurants feature arancini as appetizers.

Many cookbooks have arancini recipes that use leftover risotto. While Lockwood doesn’t think the rice balls would hold together very well, he does stress that Arborio rice is essential to the recipe’s success, since its stickiness allows the balls to hold their shape. He said that making the balls too large will keep the mozzarella from melting inside.

For a recipe for arancini, adapted from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, go to www.hippopress.com.

Adapted from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Makes approximately 20 rice balls.

For ragu:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup grated carrots
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1 14-oz. can Italian plum tomatoes with juice, crushed
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper

For rice:
5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Arborio rice
For balls:
4 large eggs
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 3 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 eggs, for coating
Vegetable oil, for frying
To make ragu, heat olive oil in a 3-quart sauce pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the meat and onion. Cook, stirring often, until the meat begins to brown. Season with salt, and then stir in the carrots and celery. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper and more salt, to taste. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 30 to 40 minutes. The ragu should be dense. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

To prepare the rice (this can be done while ragu is cooking), bring the chicken broth or water and olive oil to a boil. Stir in the rice, return to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice, uncovered, until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain well and spread out on a try to cool to room temperature.

To prepare the rice balls, place rice in a mixing bowl and beat in the 4 eggs and parmesan cheese. Add some, not all, of the ragu, just enough to flavor but not enough to make the rice so moist it will not mold into shape.

Take a handful of the rice mixture and shape into a small ball. Make a well in the center and drop in a mozzarella cube. Close the opening around the cheese and form the rice back into a ball. Continue forming arancini with the remaining rice.

Whisk the 2 eggs in a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, place the bread crumbs. Roll the rice balls in the beaten egg to coat, and then roll them in the bread crumbs, pressing lightly to coat evenly with the crumbs.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or a deep skillet to 375 degrees. Carefully place a third of the rice balls into the oil. Fry until golden brown, turning to crisp all the sides, about 4 minutes. Drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Serve warm.

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Chocolate cake makes everything better
Chocolate, Part II
Competition flows like chocolate
Corn Flake Chicken, Honeycomb Salad
Dining at the "Your House Bistro"
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Drinking Out Of The Box
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Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
Feeding A Crowd The Morning After
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Fresh Herbs
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Go Indian for Thanksgiving
Grilled Cheese Junkie

Halloween candy for grown-ups
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Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
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Oatmeal Cookies, The Miracle Cure
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The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast
The return of comfort food
The One-Note Cook Book
The New American Plate Cookbook
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