Let’s all just admit it…fried food is heavenly, and these arancini with spicy vodka sauce will satisfy your cravings.
While fried food may not be healthy, a little bit won’t kill you, right?! The good thing about arancini is that they are designed to only have a little. One or two, not a big deal! I like to keep these un-fried in the freezer. I can take a few out when I want a little snack, or when having people over for cocktails. Combine them with a healthy salad and it can be a tasty and refreshing meal.
They do take a bit of time, but you can do each part in stages. The final result is WORTH IT. If you don’t want to make the Spicy Vodka Dipping Sauce, you can buy some, no big deal! However, my recipe happens to be delicious, if I do say so myself!
- Avocado Oil – I love using avocado oil for cooking when I am sautéing, stir frying, or searing. It has a high smoke point, which means it can get very hot before it starts to smoke and burn, similar to other neutral oils, like vegetable or canola. However, it’s SO MUCH healthier than those oils, almost as healthy as olive oil. You can read more about it here. If you want, you can substitute olive oil or grapeseed oil, but you should be able to find avocado oil in most grocery stores.
- Fresh Bay Leaf – I think that a fresh bay leaf is nicer than dried, but you can easily substitute a dried bay leaf here if you cannot find fresh.
- Sriracha – Feel free to add more in, if you prefer a spicier sauce!
- Arborio Rice – There are three main types of rice you can use when making risotto: Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano. They are short-grain Italian varieties of rice that have a high starch content, which is what gives the risotto its creaminess. I chose arborio here because it’s the easiest to find, but the best type is carnaroli, because it has the highest starch content and it doesn’t get mushy as easily as arborio. You can read more about the different varieties in this article from the kitchn.
- Lemon Zest – Citrus zest has A LOT of flavor, even more than the juice. Some people think it’s a crime to waste zest, and sometimes I agree! The most important thing to remember when zesting citrus is not to zest the white bitter pith underneath because it’s bitter and will not make your food taste very nice. If you don’t have a microplane, buy one immediately! It’s one of my favorite kitchen tools.
- Frying Oil – It’s very important to use a neutral oil here with a high smoke point, like Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil, or Peanut Oil. You may ask, why can’t I use avocado oil or olive oil? First of all, they’re both more expensive. When deep-frying, you need to use a lot of oil, so better to keep the good stuff for another use. Olive oil does not have a high smoke point either, so you definitely do not want to use it for deep-frying or any high heat cooking.
Arancini with Spicy Vodka Dipping Sauce
- 2 Medium Pots
- Large Skillet
- 2 Sheet Pans
- Plastic Wrap
- Cookie Scoop – 2 inches in diameter
- Parchment Paper
- Food Processor
- 3 Medium-Sized Mixing Bowls
- Medium-Sized Pot
- Paper Towels
Ingredients for the Spicy Vodka Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion from about half a large onion
- 6 garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup vodka
- 1 ½ (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon crushed Calabrian chilies
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
Ingredients for the Arancini:
- 3 ¼ cups chicken stock or water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup yellow onion finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Kosher Salt
- 6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour can substitute regular all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups gluten-free breadcrumbs can substitute regular plain Italian breadcrumbs
- 3 cups Oil for frying Canola, Vegetable, Peanut
For the Spicy Vodka Sauce
- In a medium-sized sauce pot over low heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook for 8 minutes, stirring once in between. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until paste is fragrant and darkens slightly. Add vodka and cook for 30 seconds, until alcohol is evaporated. Add the diced tomatoes, stock, heavy cream, Calabrian chilies, and herbs. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then turn back to low and partially cover, cooking for 15-17 minutes, until slightly reduced. Turn off heat.
- Remove the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary sprigs and discard. There will be thyme and rosemary leaves that have fallen off – you can keep those in. Place into a blender with the butter and Kosher salt and puree until smooth. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.
For the Arancini
- Place the stock (or water) in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil, then keep warm over low heat while beginning the risotto.
- In a large deep skillet over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and garlic, cover, and cook for 8 minutes, stirring once or twice in between. Increase the heat to medium.
- Add the rice, stirring constantly, until the rice feels VERY hot to the touch, about 1 minute. This is called toasting the rice and it’s important for the perfect texture, forming a crust around the grains and allowing them to absorb moisture without bursting or getting soggy.
- Stir in the wine and cook until the rice absorbs 75% of the liquid.
- Add 1 cup of the stock, stir and let cook until the rice looks like it’s “dancing” (a term my culinary school instructor always used that resonated with me – shout out to Chef Guido), about 8 minutes. The liquid will not be completely absorbed, but will have a thin layer of liquid on top. Add ½ cup of the stock at a time, each time stirring and cooking until the rice looks like it’s dancing. Repeat three more times and turn off the heat. Again, there should be a tiny bit of liquid left at the top of the rice.
- Add the last 3 tablespoons of butter and the parmesan. Cover the pan and let sit for 2 minutes. Add the lemon zest and heavy cream and stir to combine. Taste and season with more salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Spread the risotto onto a sheet pan. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is directly touching the risotto, and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 2 days (if choosing to double or triple the recipe, cool for at least 2 hours).
- Take a cookie scoop that is about 2 inches in diameter and scoop the risotto into balls. Place them on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
- Take each ball in the palm of your hand and make an indent with your thumb in the center of the ball. Stick one cube of mozzarella inside and seal the risotto around it, rolling it into a sphere. Place them back on the parchment-lined sheet pan and freeze until frozen solid.
- Pulse the breadcrumbs in a food processor until you have a finer crumb consistency then transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Place the flour into a second bowl, and then whisk together the eggs and milk in a third bowl. Mix 1/3 teaspoon of salt and 1/3 teaspoon of garlic powder into each bowl.
- Take the frozen balls of risotto and toss each first in the flour, second in the egg mixture, and third in the breadcrumbs, making sure to coat the balls evenly with each mixture. Place back on the parchment-lines sheet pan and freeze again.
- Fill a medium-sized pot halfway to the top with frying oil and set over medium heat. Test the heat of the oil by sprinkling in a pinch of leftover breadcrumbs. If it sizzles, it’s hot and ready to go!
- Fry the balls in batches, making sure not to overcrowd them in the oil, until they are golden brown. Place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain any leftover oil. Serve warm with the sauce on the side.