Although there are no written records, the legend of Arancini started with a thrifty grandmother in Sicily and a pot of leftover risotto. She fashioned the rice in little balls in the image of the dainty oranges growing outside her kitchen window and fried them golden brown. When she served the little croquettes to her family, it was such a hit they asked for the name of the dish, to which she named it, “Arancini,” after the orange tree.
At least, that was what I was imagining when I had my first Arancini. Simultaneously crispy, gooey and creamy, it’s one of those rare dishes that make you smile and swoon.
After much experimenting, I am proud to present my own version as a playful dessert. Inspired by rice pudding, I started out with a sweet risotto base, scented with vanilla and nutmeg, to create the perfect backdrop to showcase Kahlua’s complex flavors. I’ve also made other improvements such as replacing normal breadcrumbs with panko for a more delicate crunch and the traditional marinara sauce with a bittersweet chocolate sauce.
Not only is this dish fun to eat, it also makes for a entertaining party activity. Gather up a few friends, roll up your sleeves, and have fun! It’s what the grandmother would have wanted. Thanks for reading and happy cooking!
Ps. If you’re ever pressed for time, the risotto alone makes for an elegant dessert. Just serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of nutmeg on top.
Kahlua Arancini di Riso
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 cups water, warmed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk, warmed
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla bean paste (extract is fine too)
1/4 cup Kahlua Hazelnut
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
Panko bread crumbs
Chocolate Kahlua Sauce
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Kahlua Hazelnut
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and stir, making sure each grain is coated with butter to prevent them from sticking. Keep stirring for 5 minutes to let the mixture toast until lightly browned—this will give extra flavor to the risotto.
Add water, sugar, salt and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add milk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition for a few minutes. When the rice has absorbed the liquid, add more. Remember to stir frequently as it's the key to a creamy risotto.
After all the milk has been added, stir in the vanilla and add the cream, again in 1/2 cup increments. Begin tasting the rice to gauge its texture. You'll want it to be al dente—tender, but with a little crunch. When it's at the right stage and all the liquid has been absorbed (you'll want it to be a little drier than the traditional risotto), take the pan off the heat and stir in the Kahlua and nutmeg.
Spread the risotto onto a shallow plate to cool. When it's cool enough to handle, cover with plastic wrap—to prevent a skin from forming—and refrigerate until fully chilled and firm. This can be done overnight.
When the risotto is chilled, start heating up the oil. Put at least 3 inches of oil in a heavy medium saucepan and heat to 350 degrees F. Whisk egg in a small bowl and pour panko in a shallow layer on a plate.
To create the arancini, moisten your hands and roll a heaping tablespoon of the cooled risotto into a ball. Dredge it in the egg mixture first, then coat with bread crumbs. Repeat with the rest of the risotto. There should be enough to make 16-18 balls.
To make the chocolate dipping sauce, heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan till it simmers, but not boiling. Add kahlua and pour over the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Wait a few minutes for chocolate to melt before stirring to mix.
By then, the oil should have reached the right temperature. Fry the arancini in small batches until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with the chocolate sauce. Enjoy!
Big thanks to Allen for donating a bottle of Kahlua Hazelnut, Pauline for graciously offering her kitchen and Hann (as well as Allen & Pauline) for being my helpers and tasters. Allen, I'm taking you with me to NY if I win, it's a promise!