Stay for the leftovers: Arancini (Risotto Balls)

Arancini, or little oranges, are so named for their shaped and color.  I have another name for them, which may not be appropriate for this particular forum.

Risotto is one of my favorite, go to meals.  While a little time consuming to prepare, it’s a totally doable weeknight, one dish dinner.

The question with risotto has always been, what to do with the leftovers? It’s not an easy food to reheat, and if you bother, you’ll likely be rewarded with a lukewarm, goey mess.  Enter the arrancino.  (Honestly, sometimes I make risotto just so I can have these).

Start with leftover risotto, any flavor will suffice, here, we used left over baby Portobello mushroom risotto.  There are a lot of different recipes out there, but for once, I’ve taken the road of least resistance.

What you’ll need:

Left over risotto (at least a cup or more)

2 eggs

Worchester sauce

Panko (bread crumbs are ok too)

Mini mozzarella balls

Olive oil

Put a heavy skillet on low heat with about ¼ of an inch or less of olive oil.

Make an egg wash with two eggs, a little milk, a drizzle of Worchester sauce, salt and pepper.

Using your hands, take a small, small golf ball sized ball of the cold risotto and pack tightly.  Using your thumb, dig a little hole and drop in a mozzarella ball in.  Close it up, and pack tightly using both hands, making sure that the mozzarella is completely covered by rice.

Gently roll in the egg wash, and immediately roll in the bread crumbs or panko.  Repeat.

Once you have five or six, you can start pan frying them.  I used tongs, to gently turn them, though if you press too hard you’ll end up with little squares or tetrahedrons (or just misshapen, like mine).

Once they are golden brown on all sides, drain them on a paper towel and they are ready to enjoy.

You could in theory put any kind of cheese inside (like blue) that makes sense, or just skip that step.

The result is a deliciously crunchy exterior with warm, creamy (mushroomy) risotto, followed up a melty mozzarella center.  YUM!

Long time coming: Longman & Eagle

Despite an absurd wait, having our party of 8 split into two, traveling to the far flung reaches of Logan Square: Longman & Eagle was one of the very best food experiences I’ve had in a long time.

The drinks were creative (bourbon and whiskey heavy) – a bourbon “mint julep” was complex  and delicious.  We kicked things off waiting at the bar with some house marinated olives (good, very tart) and the cheese plate.  The cheese plate was good, but the portion was a little sad.

About an hour and a half later (yes, the wait was that long) we finally got seated and got down to business.

The apps: We ordered the compressed melon salad- surprisingly flavorful, balanced and beautiful to look at it. A rabbit pate followed (it was wrapped with a bit of bacon, no need to say more), prawns and grits (the sauce threw it over the edge) was somehow miraculously balanced.  Sometimes prawns taste you got them long john silvers, but these were excellent.  The Tete du Chochon (yes, pigs head, amazing), the overall effect was that of a dried, salty pulled pork, with a poached egg on top.  Overall, the appetizers and small plates were very rich, full of flavor and beautifully presented.

The main event: I had the Porchetta with a sweet corn (and bacon) risotto and smoked paprika oil.  The presentation was nice, the portion appropriate, the porchetta was flavorful, fall apart with a fork tender.  However, what really made it special was that smoked paprika oil.  I’m not 100% sure what it is, where to get it or how to make it, but of this I am convinced: I need more of it in my life.   My partners in crime had the Seared Tuna; the Flank steak; and the butter-explosion that was the Burger.  In every case, the dishes showed finesse, great balance, and something special.

Since things were going so well, we couldn’t help ourselves and got dessert: the Terrine of Madagascar chocolate (or whatever) – was the first disappointment of the night.  Sadly, it felt a little uninspired, something I could probably get a great Mexican bakery.  Not bad, mind you, just by no means exceptional.

Meanwhile, the Charred Olive Pound Cake with warm blue berry compote was a revelation.  Not just a Mario Battali style cake with olive oil in it—this was green, almost salty, really.. well, olive oil-y.  The combination was superb.    I will learn to make this cake.

The bill.   Well, four people, four apps, four entrees, 2 desserts, and probably 6-8 drinks later… it wasn’t exactly cheap, but it did feel like a good value for the quality of the food.

All this to say: come hungry, be prepared to wait, and then gorge-  it’s really worth it.

Rustic Home, Homemade Ravioli

Following a relatively successful venture in making homemade fettuccine , I graduated to the next order of difficulty, homemade ravioli.


I call them rustic, because frankly, the result was… rustic.   I went out and bought a ravioli cutter/stamp like this one from Amazon - although I found mine randomly at TJ Maxx of all places for $3, I took that as a sign.I ended up with little malformed, slightly overstuffed little pockets of pure heaven.  I’ll say, they didn’t look all that pretty, but they definitely looked homemade and frankly, I can’t image anything more delish.
At first I tried to make a batch with semolina, but quickly realized that my beginner’s luck would not carry me that far.  I went back to the original recipe i used for fettuccine and stopped at thinly rolling out (8 setting on my Atlas 150).  You can read all about it on my previous post.You’ll need:Pasta:
2 cups flour
2 eggs
sea salt

Filing & Sauce:
4 oz Goat Cheese
1 Bag of Frozen Spinach
Garlic
Butter
Olive Oil

Homemade Ricotta

Also:

Pasta Roller
Ravioli Cutter
Cheese Cloth

*Note, this probably only comfortably serves two if its your main dish.  You’ll need help to make a whole lot more than this.

Dough:
Make your pasta dough according the previous post (mix ingredients, knead).  While the egg pasta dough was resting, I worked on making a basic filling with a twist- the twist being simple homemade ricotta – here’s the post on that.

Filling: 
I combined the ricotta, about 4 ounces of goat cheese and half the bag of spinach.  That’s it.  You’ll want to make sure your filling has a big pop of flavor, mine seemed a little oversalted at first from the goat cheese, but in combination with

Cutting:
Once the pasta dough rested, I cut it into thirds and started rolling it out, a setting at a time, until I got to a very thin (8 setting).  On a very lightly floured surface (probably the same one you used for the dough), I laid out my sheets.  Using the ravioli cutter as a rough measure, I cut each sheet into smaller, rectangular strips.  Each trip should be just a little larger than twice the size of the cutter.

Plop a small bit of the filling in the upper middle of the strip, and fold in half.  Make sure the upper layer of pasta is adhered to the filling, otherwise when you cut, you’ll have a silly looking air pouch (like I did).  Now use your cutter to cut the shape out. Press down hard, remove the excess around the edges, and pop the raviolo out of the cutter.

Repeat about 30 times.

Note, you can gather up all the scraps, knead a bit and run it through the roller again.  It won’t work well more than one pass, but its worth salvaging some.

Dry:
Place each one on a well floured surface and make sure they don’t touch each other – they will stick.  Mine ended up sticking quite a bit (because I wasn’t paying attention to instructions- are you?) – its not the end of the world, they can be gently separated, and they will come apart while cooking as long as you add some olive oil to the boiling water.

Let the ravioli dry for about 3 hours.  You can cook them right away or put them into the fridge, but you’ll want to use them within a day or two.

Cook:

Boil a large pot of water.  Once its boiling, add salt, some olive oil.  Cook for about 2 minutes and carefully remove.

Sauce: 

I kept with the spinach theme: I used the other half of the frozen spinach to make a VERY simple sauce: sauteed spinach with a bit of lime juice, garlic, butter, olive oil.

Serve with some parm.

Next time I’ll try with homemade butternut squash filling.