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Bite-Sized Rice Croquettes

Bite-Sized Rice Croquettes
These tiny croquettes are a specialty of northern Italy. Crispy on the outside and creamy inside, they are perfect accompanied with a glass of ruby red Barolo. Crushed pastes of black olives, moistened with olive oil and sometimes seasoned with salt and herbs, are available sold in tubes and jars in many delicatessens.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup black olive paste (see note)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups fine dried bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil and olive oil for deep-frying

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until coated with oil and hot, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the broth and milk and bring just to a simmer. Immediately add the milk-broth mixture to the rice with 1/3 cup of the olive paste and the salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook slowly until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/3 cup olive paste and the cheese. Remove from the heat and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Using a scant 1 Tbs. of the rice mixture for each croquette, form the mixture into balls the size of large olives, about 1 inch in diameter. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and water until blended. Place the bread crumbs in a third bowl. Roll the rice balls in the flour, then in the egg mixture and finally in the bread crumbs, coating evenly each time. As the balls are coated, place on a baking sheet.

In a deep saucepan, pour in equal parts vegetable oil and olive oil to a depth of 1 inch and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Add the balls, in batches, and fry, turning as needed, until golden on all sides, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a wire rack placed over a paper towel–lined tray to drain. Keep warm until all of the balls are cooked. Alternatively, fry the rice balls in an electric deep fryer according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Arrange on a platter and serve immediately.
Makes 60 croquettes; serves 12.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Small Plates, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1998).