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Prosciutto Arancini

Arancini means “little oranges,” which is exactly what these round, deep-fried rice croquettes look like when they are lifted from the hot oil. They are served as snack food in bars and cafés all over Sicily, and their filling can vary—meat and tomato sauce with peas, chopped vegetables and white sauce, cheese and prosciutto—depending on the cook.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth  
  • 1 cup medium-grain white rice such as Arborio 
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • Pinch of sea salt 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
  • 1 whole egg, plus 1 egg yolk 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 2 cups fine dried bread crumbs 
  • 3 egg whites 
  • 2 oz. prosciutto, chopped 
  • 2 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped 
  • Olive or canola oil for deep-frying  

Directions:

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Stir in the rice, butter and salt. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the rice to a bowl and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Let cool slightly, then stir in the whole egg and egg yolk. Let cool completely.

Spread the flour on a dinner plate, and spread the bread crumbs on a separate plate. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg whites until blended.

In a small bowl, mix together the prosciutto and mozzarella, and then divide the mixture into 12 equal portions. Moisten your hands with water. Scoop up 1/4 cup of the rice mixture and place it in the cupped palm of one hand. Flatten out the mixture slightly and place 1 portion of the prosciutto-mozzarella mixture in the center. Mold the rice over the filling, adding a bit more rice if needed to cover it completely. Shape the rice into a ball. Roll the ball in the flour, and then in the egg whites to coat completely. Finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs and place on a rack. Continue with the remaining ingredients to make 12 balls total. Rinse your hands frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to them. Let the balls dry on the rack for at least 15 minutes before frying, or refrigerate the balls for up to 1 hour.

Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 200°F. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels and set it next to the stove. Pour the olive oil to a depth of 3 inches into a deep, heavy fry pan and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. The oil must cover the balls by at least 1 inch so they will cook evenly and not burst.

Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, gently lower a few of the rice balls into the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden brown and crisp all over, about 2 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the arancini to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Fry the remaining arancini in the same way, allowing the oil to return to the original frying temperature before adding the next batch.

Arrange the arancini on a warmed platter and serve immediately, or hold in the warm oven for up to 1 hour before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).