Gluten free arancini. Cooked risotto rice, stuffed with mushrooms, beef and cheese, dredged in gluten free flour, egg and coated in bread crumbs, then fried gently to perfection.
I love brown rice risotto. I make short grain brown rice for my family all the time. It still tastes pretty starchy, but it’s the whole grain, so I get to feel virtuous. My main objectives in making dinner for my family are the following: 1. Fill them up (for the moment at least!); and 2. Not feel guilty about what I just served them. Sometimes, I make sure I serve gluten free bread with dinner because I know it’s going to be spectacular with #1 above. It’s all rather self-serving, I realize. But I loathe guilt and am relatively quick to let myself off the hook when I do the best I can on any given day. I’m not expecting perfection (of myself or of my children). Just our best, at least most days. So when I first set out to make a version of gluten free arancini, I thought I’d make them with brown arborio rice. Guess what? It does not work! It’s just not starchy enough. I mean, we ate the (multiple) failures, and they tasted quite nice, but … they were not arancini. Not by a mile. You want arancini, you’re gonna need to use the starchiest rice you can find.
Brown arborio rice just isn’t starchy enough. And you neeeeeed starchy rice. I tried these first with brown arborio (fail), then with white arborio (nice), and finally with sushi rice (home run!). Temperature is also quite important. You want to begin with all of your ingredients at room temperature (especially the rice), which allows the starches in the rice to gel. Then, once everything is shaped, chilling the rice balls will keep them together through coating and frying.
A few words about deep-frying: I don’t do it a lot, but when I do, I have a few habits that make my life easier. First, I have this tiny little deep fryer (made by Cuisinart) that wasn’t very expensive (I got it at Bed Bath & Beyond with a coupon), and makes my life so so so much easier when I remember to use it. It keeps the house from smelling of fried food for days. Second, I drain the food very well after it comes out of the frying oil and before it goes on the paper towels. Deep-frying, when done at the proper temperature, is actually better for you than shallow frying. The frying oil seals the outside of the food quickly, so the food absorbs very little oil. The rest of the time frying is to gently steam in the inside until it’s cooked through.
I filled my arancini with sautéed mushrooms (I just cooked down sliced white mushrooms in some tomato sauce, and then drained them), but I also love them with browned ground beef. And with cheese. You gotta have the cheese (unless you can’t have cheese, and then of course they’re still lovely anyway—just leave the Parmigiano-Reggiano out, and skip the mozzarella in favor of another filling).
These are right up there with my favorite finger foods. What’s your fave?
Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper, and set it aside. In a large bowl, place the cooked rice, salt, pepper, oregano, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 2 beaten eggs, and mix to combine well. The starchier the rice, the better the mixture will hold together. If any of your ingredients are cold, the mixture will not hold together well. All of the shaping should be done with very wet hands, as that will help keep the rice from sticking to your hands. Wet them often. Divide the mixture into 8 parts of equal size. Divide the first part in half, and press half of the mixture firmly into one wet palm. With your free hand, place 2 small cubes of mozzarella cheese, plus about 1 sautéed mushroom or 1 teaspoon of cooked ground beef (if using), in the center of the rice in your palm. Place the remaining half of the rice on top of the fillings, and (again with very wet hands!) squeeze the mixture closed as tightly as you can, and roll into a ball. Set the filled rice ball on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 7 parts of the rice mixture. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator (for 15 minutes) or freezer (for 5 minutes) until firm.
Place the gum-free gluten free flour blend in a shallow bowl, the egg wash in another shallow bowl, and the (seasoned) breadcrumbs in a final shallow bowl. Remove the rice balls from the refrigerator or freezer. Dredge each rice ball through the flour blend, then through the egg wash (allowing any excess to drip off), and finally in the breadcrumbs until well-coated on all sides. Return to the baking sheet. Place the coated rice balls in the refrigerator while you heat the oil.
In a medium-size, heavy-bottom pot or fryer, place about 3-inches of frying oil. Clip a deep-fry/candy thermometer to the side of the pot or fryer, and place the oil over medium-high heat. Bring the oil to 375°F. Remove the rice balls from the refrigerator, and fry in small batches until cooked through and golden brown all over (about 6 minutes total). Transfer the rice balls to a paper towel-lined plate and serve warm, with tomato sauce.