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Rice Balls with Four Cheeses
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/8 teaspoon saffron powder or turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup short-grain rice, preferably arborio
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tablespoons freshly grated Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated provolone cheese
24 (1/2-inch) cubes fresh or regular mozzarella cheese, about 2 ounces
1 3/4 cups Italian Bread Crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
Canola or vegetable oil for deep frying
Makes 24 to 26 Balls - Serves 8 to 10
Bring the chicken stock, saffron or turmeric, salt and pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan set on medium-high heat. Stir in the rice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes for short-grain pearl rice or 20 minutes for arborio rice, until rice has absorbed the liquid. Stir in the butter, Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago and provolone cheeses. The mixture will be thick and sticky. Let the rice cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
To assemble the rice balls, line up the ingredients in the following order: a medium bowl of cold water, the chilled rice mixture, the mozzarella cubes, a bowl with half the bread crumbs, a bowl with the beaten eggs and a bowl with the remaining bread crumbs. Moisten your hands in the bowl of water, shaking off the excess. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the rice in the palm of your hand and make a deep indentation in it with your finger to form a pocket. Put a cube of mozzarella cheese into the pocket and then fold the rice over the filling. Using both hands, roll the rice into a tightly packed ball. Roll the rice ball in the first bowl of bread crumbs, dip it in the beaten eggs and then roll it in the second bowl of bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet and repeat until you have used up all the rice. You should have approximately 24-26 balls. The rice balls can be frozen at this point and cooked later if you wish. Simply place them on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Transfer to re-sealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before deep-frying.
Place 4-6 inches of the oil in a deep fryer or heavy deep saucepan set over medium heat and heat to 350 degrees. (If you don't have a candy or deep-fat frying thermometer, drop a 1-inch cube of bread into the oil when you think it is hot enough. If it turns golden brown in 1 minute, the oil is ready.) When the oil is ready, deep-fry 2-3 rice balls at a time until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels or brown paper bags and then keep warm in a low temperature oven while cooking the remaining rice balls. Serve hot. Any leftover cooked rice balls can be frozen for up to 2 montyhs. Reheat the frozen rice balls on a baking sheet in a 400 dgeree oven for 30-40 minutes.
The rice balls may be oven-baked, if you prefer not to deep-fry them. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or 30-40 minutes for frozen rice balls, until nicely browned.
Chef's Tip: This recipe can be modified to create one of Sicily's most famous rice recipes - Arancine di Riso con carne (Stuffed Rice Balls with Meat Filling). Use 6 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in place of the mixture of 3 grated cheeses used in the recipe above and 1/4 cup of Bolognese Meat Sauce combined with 1/4 cup frozen peas that have been thawed as a filling. Prepare the rice as directed, filling each ball with 1 teaspoon of the meat sauce mixture and a cube of mozzarella cheese. Cook as directed.
Wine Suggestion: Semillion
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