Do people even say that anymore? I don’t know, I’m so out of touch with what the kids are up to. I now have nieces and nephews older than new hires at my office? How is this happening? I AM ONLY 31. I CANNOT BE THIS OLD YET.

Only risotto shaped into a ball, stuffed with gorgonzola, breaded and deep-fried in olive oil can assuage me.

I guess it doesn’t really matter how old I am because I’m already crazy, so what’s left to lose? I’ve decided, after the past several days’ neck shitting, that I’m either:

  1. In the throes of the World’s Worst PMS and my uterus is literally about to explode, probably while I’m on the subway during rush hour to ensure that the maximum number of people are sprayed with my endometrial matter;
  2. On the verge of climbing to the top of Penn Station with a rifle and shooting every tourist who walks up the stairs from the A/C/E station and stops to look at a map, thus causing a mass domino effect behind them, before then shooting myself;*
  3. About to break with reality completely;
  4. All of the above; or
  5. About to die.

I’m equally ready for any of them to occur, although if pressed I will admit that I’m secretly hoping for #1. At least it would be a change of pace. And if I have to suffer then damn it, I’m going to eat some fried fucking food while I do.

*I work near Penn Station, so this would be convenient. Also, I don’t think I’d be a decent shot from a taller building.

You may recall that last Monday I used our stock of fresh English peas in what was, to be honest, some fairly ass-kicking risotto. While it’s true that I remain most excited about all the leftover garlic scape butter and the vast realm of foodstuffs just waiting for a schmear, arancini con gorgonzola – fried rice balls with gorgonzola – are a close second.

Lest you did not already think that Italy is far and away home of the world’s best food, which I can understand if you’ve never tasted my Zia Lilliana’s cooking or have been living under a rock and/or grew up feral*, I give you arancini. What other nation can make such fantastic food out of leftover starches? Panzanella. Ribollita. Spaghetti pie. And arancini, which technically means “little oranges,” but who has time to be sensical when dealing with fried balls of delizioso?**

Here is where the what-what comes in; you may also choose to give “props” if you’d like: Not only is Brian putting up with my shitneck and all that comes with it (i.e., shit), which is saying a lot because he’s a neat freak and I know the idea of having to clean exploded uterus out of upholstery is giving him an ulcer, but HE MADE THE ARANCINI. So I got to lie on the couch, watch the Tour de France, drinking juice with one hand and monitoring uteral movement with the other and then BAM! Fried things in the shape of a ball. Filled with cheese. With a baby spinach salad on the side for health and rationalization.

*In which case, congratulations on your newfound ability to use a computer and navigate the internet.

**CLEVER TWIST! Hint for food bloggers: If you’re trying to avoid an overused word like “delicious” but aren’t feeling particularly creative, say it in another language! It’s a guaranteed winner! You’ll be saying WOW every time.

That also means he took all the pictures except the money shots, if you can even call them that, and look at the vast improvement in his shaky hand syndrome!

Making arancini, once you have the leftover rice, is laughably easy. I don’t say that to downplay Brian’s contributions, but because it’s basically the same as making meatballs.  Here, the chilled risotto is firm enough to be rolled into a ball, hollowed out and entrusted with a dab of gorgonzola. (I chose a softer, milder gorgonzola that would melt into the surrounding rice and not overwhelm the fragile sweetness of the fresh peas the way a stinky crumbly blue might.) The arancini are rolled in bread crumbs – the Progresso special, no fancy crap made from homemade pain de campagne I made in my newly-constructed backyard brick oven – and fried in olive oil. Real olive oil. Extra virgin oil.

Because that? Is the way le Zie Lilliana e Wanda would do it, and god forbid they ever learn to read English and find this blog and see that I’ve blasphemed the arancini with canola oil (the store bought bread crumbs I can get away with until la Nonna learns English). Frankly, I’m not sure that Zia Wanda, who uses only home-pressed olive oil, knows that other kinds of oil exist. We’re from the deep south. We’re a simple people.

This explains why it looks like they’re frying in aloe water; the big bottle of olive oil we had on hand happened to be particularly green and peppery (all the better for adding extra oomph to the arancini).  The rice balls are already cooked, so they’re just taking a quick dip in the oil to heat through, brown and crisp up.

I normally like to eat them at room temperature; that’s how I always eat ’em in the motherland, like street food. I also normally like to eat dinner before midnight, so we ate (most of) them hot, with a pile of baby spinach dressed only with lemon juice and sprinkled with salt. (As far as I’m concerned, nothing more need be done to baby spinach).

It seems stupid to write about what these tasted like, because isn’t it obvious? The risotto was excellent to begin with. The gorgonzola is a creaminess-enhancing agent, along with the sharp ping it brings to the arancini. (Spinach and blue cheese also live happily ever after, and I admit to digging out visible cheese nubbins with my fork and eating them with the veg.) The whole thing is encased in a golden brown, crackly crust that breaks apart into conveniently bite-sized chunks when nudged with a fork, while the extra virgin olive oil pretties up the bread crumbs and infuses the house with the smell of la Nonna’s Puglian kitchen. (I know several notable expat food bloggers live in Calabria, which is lovely. But not as lovely as Puglia. Nice try, suckas.)

There was one arancino that neither of us could eat – they are addictive, but never let it be said that they are light – so we stuck it in the fridge. Brian had it for breakfast after his morning run, and reports that from now on we are only eating these if they have been made in advance and left to congeal overnight. It is true that you lose the shatteringly crisp crust that way, but they’re still better. Like good fried chicken at room temperature. Trust me.

Or should you, in light of what you’ve just learned about me? Depends on how bad you want some arancini.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Cheap Ass Monday: Cheap As Free

Arancini con Gorgonzola
Leftover risotto, chilled (like this one, or this one)
Small hunk of gorgonzola
Pile of bread crumbs
Enough decent olive oil for frying

Shape risotto into golf-ball sized rounds, or baseballs if you’re feeling gluttonous.  Poke a hole in the ball and stuff a dab of cheese in, maybe a tablespoon. Close the rice over the cheese.

Roll the rice balls in bread crumbs. Plain, seasoned, whatever. Who am I, the breadcrumb police?

Heat the olive oil to between 350-375 in a heavy pot. Fry the arancini in any many batches as necessary – don’t crowd the pot – until they’re a rich golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel.

Eat now, or eat later.

Depending on how simple or complex the starting risotto is, you can do all kinds of things with these. Also tasty:

  • Good meat sauce
  • Wilted spinach and fontina
  • Nothing at all
  • Minced, sauteed summer veg (zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes) and parm or romano cheese
  • A bocconcino (little marinated ball of fresh mozarella)

[tags]food, cooking, rice, risotto, italy, cheese[/tags]