Tag Archives: Italian

Arancini

Arancini, or arancini di riso, are leftovers combined with street food.  Sure, they’ve got a “fancy” name, they’re a perfect appetizer or small plate for a dinner party or holiday gathering, and they taste complex with an exciting, cheesy surprise in the middle.  But in reality, arancini are the most effective way to use up leftover risotto.

One night in the fridge can turn creamy, delicate, filling risotto into a sticky, goopy, nightmare.  That’s all it takes.  And when you’re cooking for one or two or making it as a side, the fact that it makes horrible leftovers is a huge deterrent from spending the time it takes to make a good risotto. 

Which is probably why I like arancini so much- it helps me justify the 45 minutes spent making delicious risotto instead of putting my clothes away or cleaning off the dining room table, because I know that in a few days I can use up the leftovers for crispy, cheesy arancini.  Win-win, people.

I’ve made and enjoyed “traditional” arancini with ricotta or mozzarella in the center and coated in bread crumbs, but I prefer a stripped-down version with a bite of cheddar.  For this batch I used a cheddar that was made in our backyard (not literally)- Cow Caviar of Chippewa Falls, WI, who buys milk from small organic family farms in the area to make their cheese!  This cheese really exceeded my expectations, and it melted wonderfully in the arancini.  I think that any creamy, melty cheese would work fantastically in arancini, be it untraditional.

Arancini
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 c. leftover, cooled risotto
2 eggs
1/2 c. flour + 1/2 flour for rolling
1/2 c. grated parmesan or romano
2 oz. cheese, such as mozzarella or a creamy cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 T. oil
salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs to blend. Add the risotto, flour, and parmesan, and mix well to combine (I use my hands).  Place the 1/2 c. into a wide shallow dish.  Roll about 2-3 tablespoons of the rice mixture between your palms; insert a cube of cheese into the ball, and then roll in flour.  Repeat until all the balls are prepared.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high until hot and shimmery, and reduce heat to medium.  Add the rice balls in batches and cook until golden brown and heated through to melt the cheese, turning as necessary.  (Mine get a bit flatter- almost like crab cakes- but that’s okay with me!)  Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and let rest on paper towels.  Serve warm with marinara for dipping (optional- we eat them plain).

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Side dishes

Chicken P-P-P-P Pockets

No, I don’t have a stutter and have no desire to make fun of anyone who does- but titling this post “Chicken pesto provolone puff pastry pockets” seemed ridonk.

I made the pesto with walnuts and with basil fresh from the garden. If I was really impressive, I’d tell you all about butchering the chicken and rolling out the from-scratch puff pastry… but the poultry is from the farmer’s market, and the pastry is from a box in the freezer section.

Not a real “home-made meal,” I know. I felt like I was cheating, like I was pulling a little Sandra Lee, while I put these together. (The only difference is I wasn’t drinking a pitcher of vodka- ba-dum CHING!)

Getting the puff pastry out to thaw – which takes 40-45 minutes- does require a bit of planning, which makes this a later-weeknight meal or one for the weekends.  If you have the time and patience, you could even make your own. OR, you can rush the pastry and rip it apart while trying to unfold it, then have to patch it together with water and flour (-and of course, all I had was wheat so not only did it have seams, it had patches). I recommend pouring a glass of wine and practicing patience.

But even though I used boxed pastry and a few other grocery staples, the meal was filling and tasty, something of comfort with a hint of summer in it. And eventually, I WILL make puff pastry, danggit.

Just not this week.

Chicken 4P Pockets

I like to serve  with a light pasta-veggie salad in the summer, or pasta and marinara for a heartier option.

1 sheet puff pastry dough
2 large halved or 4 small chicken breasts
3 T. oil, divided
2 cloves garlic
1 t. each oregano and thyme
1 c. pesto
4 oz. provolone cheese
~1/4 c. grated parmesan

Thaw puff pastry according to direction. While thawing, heat 1 T. oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Rub the chicken breasts with the remaining oil and then season with oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Brown chicken in skillet, about 3 minutes on each side, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover for 10 minutes. Remove from heat to cool slightly.

Heat oven to 400. On a lightly floured surface, carefully unfold pastry sheet. Roll out lightly to flatten seams and even out edges. Facing the sheet with the long edge of the pastry going left to right (not up and down), cut the sheet down the middle to create two rectangles (don’t worry about separating/moving the sheet). Then in one of the upper corners of one rectangle, make a diagonal cut across the rectangle to the opposite corner. Repeat with the other rectangle. You will end up with 4 long triangle shaped sections of pastry. (See the picture above if you have any confusion, and ignore my misshapen mess of pastry!)

Divide the pesto among the 4 triangles and spread, staying away from the edges a bit. Grate a bit of parmesan on top of the pesto. On the fat part of each triangle, lay down a 1 oz. slice of provolone, and top it with a piece of chicken. Carefully wrap the pastry around the chicken and cheese, careful to press down and seal the edges a bit. Space on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and chicken juices run clear when cut.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Chicken, Main dishes

Basil-Walnut Pesto

My basil has been attempting to take over my entire garden. Okay, exaggeration… but it was looking quite fierce compared to the nearby tomato plants. I went out on Sunday to prune it, and ended up bringing in nearly four cups of basil leaves! Insane!

I was far too lazy to bike to the store and pay a stupidly-high price for mediocre pine nuts, so instead I toasted some walnuts and put together this lovely pesto. Delish with chicken, pasta, on baguette or other french bread, for crostata, or even on whole-wheat Ritz crackers with a little extra sprinkle of grated parmesan. [Puttin’ on the Ritz? Guilty as charged.]

Basil-Walnut Pesto
adapted from the lovely Elise at Simply Recipes

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
3-4 fresh garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To toast nuts: Set oven to 400 degrees. Coarsely chop nuts, and spread out evenly on a baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 3-4 minutes, then shake the nuts around on the pan. Do this two or three times, and be sure to take them out before they smell like they’re burning!

Combine the basil and walnuts, and pulse a few times in a food processor.  Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese, fresh black pepper, and a generous pinch of [kosher!] salt, and pulse again until blended.  Can be served immediately, but it’s really good if chilled in a tupperware or covered bowl in the fridge for a few hours, just to let the flavors really blend.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Condiments, etc., Pasta