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Smoked Gouda Risotto Balls

Smoked Gouda Risotto Balls Related:   appetizers, bread & savory pastries, dairy, Europe, kid-friendly, rice & grains, snacks, vegetarian

Prep time: 45 mins + 45 mins for rice to cool)

Cook time: 15 mins for rice + 15 mins for frying

Yield: 20 to 22 balls (about 2 inches in diameter)

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Deep-fried rice and cheese croquettes—the Italians had a great idea for Chanukah without even knowing it. This specialty known as supplì (SOO-plee) or arancine (ah-rahn-CHEE-neh) is formed with tender risotto, stuffed with cheese (and sometimes meat and vegetables), and then coated and fried. If anything could replace the Friedman family latkes for me as a favored Chanukah dish, this would be it. My special holiday version, adapted from my recipe in Meatballs and Matzah Balls, nods to the flames and little wisp of smoke of the Chanukah candles by incorporating smoked Gouda cheese.

Kids can help roll, stuff and coat the balls, and even experiment with different cheese fillings. If they don’t like Gouda, start by trying the traditional and equally delicious fresh mozzarella. As always, just keep children back (and stand back a little yourself) during frying since the oil can sometimes splatter. The risotto balls are best served sizzling out of the pan, but you can keep them warm in a 250-degree oven if needed. Serve with marinara sauce if you like, but we enjoy them as is.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups Arborio (short-grained) rice
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ½ pound smoked Gouda cheese, cut into small pieces (about the size of an olive or blackberry)
  • 1½ cups Japanese panko crumbs or other breadcrumbs
  • Canola or other neutral oil (about 2 quarts or enough to cover balls)
  • A deep-fry or candy thermometer to monitor oil temperature during frying

Preparation

  • Warm the oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 3 minutes, until edges of rice turn slightly translucent and liquid is absorbed. Stir in salt, black pepper, ground red pepper and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer without stirring for about 15 minutes, until rice is al dente and most liquid is absorbed (the mixture will be creamy). Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan and Cheddar cheeses. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Set aside until cool enough to handle comfortably, about 45 minutes.
  • To make the balls, moisten hands with water. Form about 2 heaping tablespoons of cooked rice into a ball, then press 1 piece of Gouda into the center. Reshape so that rice completely encloses the cheese and squeeze to make a compact ball. Set aside and repeat with remaining rice. Roll the balls in the panko crumbs.
  • Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed, deep-sided pan (such as a Dutch oven) to 355 to 360 degrees. Working in batches of 5 balls at a time so as not to crowd the pan, gently lower the balls into the oil and fry, turning once or twice, until deep golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. Repeat with remaining balls, allowing the oil to return to 360 degrees before adding a new batch.

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