Dessert, Fruit, Leftover Recycling

Pure guava.

[note to subscribers: an earlier version of this entry was posted in error]

We just returned from the Bahamas, which, despite their favorable tropical location, import over eighty percent of their food. The deep Caribbean waters surrounding the archipelago are stocked with grouper, snapper, crayfish, conch, and lobster, but nearly all the catch is frozen immediately and shipped elsewhere – principally to the United States – with only a small amount of the frozen product and an even smaller amount of the fesh catch reserved for consumption across the islands. A number of fruits are widely available – tangerines, coconut, guava – but the arid, sandy environment and perennial water shortages mean that most vegetables besides bell peppers are grown elsewhere. Local beer, however, is plentiful. On the way to the supermarket, when we stopped at Smithy’s Liquor Store for a mixed case of Kalik and Sands bottles, the proprietor mixed in a few cold ones and offered to crack open a couple “for the road.” No thanks, we demurred, apologizing that we had to drive another twenty miles on an unfamiliar road toward Wemyss. “It’s not like America, you know,” she chuckled. “Around here a lot of people like to drink a beer when they drive.”

Cold brews, in the refrigerator and not the car

Beer-drinking Bahamian drivers notwithstanding, we made it to our rented vacation home in one piece. It’s a really beautiful country, the Bahamas, and our remote island location – Long Island – is renowned for spectacular scenery. My husband had warned me, however, that our Bahamian destination was long on beachy natural beauty but short on fresh food. This did not come as a surprise – years ago, in a couple of essays about Caribbean foodways, Calvin Trillin described the disappointing and ironic absence of fresh meat and fish on that side of the Commonwealth. Having prepared myself to visit the Land of the Frozen Fish Filet, I wasn’t all that disturbed when our trip to the island’s largest supermarket presented mostly canned vegetables, Spam, and a freezer case of something called “aged mutton” that appeared to have been cut into squarish chunks with a circular saw and was as maroon-dark as venison. We took a pass on the frozen mutton but stocked up on frozen pork chops, local guava and pineapple jams, and citrus fruit, most of it imported from Florida.

Fine Bahamian jams

By the last night, we had eaten everything we brought or bought, except for the dregs of a couple jars of jam and a stick of butter. I hate wasting food, even on holiday. A few years ago, after a week in Guadeloupe, I was determined not to waste a pound of good French butter and brought it back to the States, frozen and wrapped it in several layers of foil and ziploc bags. OK, not exactly. It was frozen when we left the hotel. After an hour-long flight to San Juan and an extended mechanical delay – during which our bags sat on the tarmac in the August heat and we sat in the airport bar drinking Carib – the demi-sel from Bretagne took on the consistency of mayonnaise. Lesson learned: butter doesn’t travel and it is foolish to try.

This time, faced with the choice between a ruptured ziploc bag of melted butter and a forsaken stick of butter, I selected a third way – the way of the jam tart. In addition to the leftover butter, we also had a half-jar each of the guava jam and pineapple jam. I found whole wheat flour and sugar in the pantry at our rented house; after making a quick pâte brisée and pressing it into muffin tins (you have to improvise on holiday), I blind baked the shells and filled them with jam. Lesson learned: it pays to know how to make pastry.

Long Island, Bahamas

Our beach, between Wemyss and Simms

Bahamian jam tart

The inspiration for these tarts was the distinctively non-Bahamian linzertorte, a classic Austrian jam-filled pastry. Of course, linzertorte normally is filled with raspberry jam and I used tropical fruit jams. And I didn’t lattice the pastry because I didn’t feel like it. And I used whole wheat flour, because that’s what was in the pantry. OK, so it’s nothing like linzertorte, but the wheat flour added the same kind of nuttiness that hazelnuts usually contribute.

Feel free to substitute unbleached white flour or pastry flour for the whole wheat, although the wheaty flavor provides a savory, nutty counterpoint to the sweet jam. And use whatever jam you’re trying to use up.

1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
4 oz (1 stick or 1/2 c) cold unsalted butter
ice water

1 c guava jam, pineapple jam, or any other tropical fruit jam

Sift together the dry ingredients. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry cutter or knives. When the mixture resembles large peas in flour, turn it out onto a clean surface and sprinkle a little ice water over all (start with about 1 tbsp, depending on humidity). Gather the dough together and incorporate the butter and water by pushing out onto the surface with the heel of your hand, gathering the dough, and repeating until it holds together (fraisage). If you don’t feel like doing this by hand, pulse the dry ingredients, butter, and a small amount of water in a food processor. Wrap in plastic and rest, refrigerated, for half an hour.

375F oven.

Divide dough into about a dozen equal pieces, roll out, and press into muffin tins. In lieu of rolling out, if you feel lazy, press each piece into a muffin tin cup. Prick the bottom of each tart shell with a fork and blind bake for about 12 minutes, until light golden.

Remove from the oven and add a heaping tablespoon of jam to each shell. Take care to keep the jam in the center of the shells and not at the edges so the tarts don’t stick to the pan. Return to the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Rustic Bahamian guava tart

Rustic pineapple jam tart

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Chicken, Dessert, preserving, Random Thoughts

Butter Queen.

Invariably, at some time between kindergarten and second grade, every Wisconsin child learns to make butter. I don’t think this is universal in other states – a quick poll of my contemporaries on the east coast yielded mostly fond, pity-the-rube chuckles and in one case, a pat on the head – but in Wisconsin, it is an essential part of the dairy industry’s youth indoctrination program. I’m not sure when California surpassed Wisconsin as the nation’s number one milk producer, but I assure you that California has not assumed the America’s Dairyland title, and it never will. That indelible association belongs to my home state, which will release its kung-fu grip on the moniker when California stops being the land of hippies and market-flooding high-alcohol Cabernets. (Crazily, Idaho is the nation’s third largest milk producer, right behind Wisconsin. Everyone knows that Idaho is the potato state, not the dairy state, so to avoid upsetting long-held commodity/geography associations and causing the universe to collapse on itself, let’s just shake our heads in disbelief and move on.)

Before you get too excited about Little House on the Prairie-like visions of Wisconsin children taking turns plunging a broom handle up and down an old-fashioned wooden butter churn, let me tell you how we did it in 1974, because the process probably hasn’t changed since then in first grade classrooms around the state. The teacher pours a quart of heavy cream into a giant bowl and plugs in an electric hand mixer. The kids crowd around in a circle and murmur excitedly at first as billows of whipped cream form. This early enthusiasm fades to disappointment and a certain loss of focus as the cream ceases to resemble Cool Whip. “Is it butter yet?” a kid invariably will call out after some minutes, tense and worried that the thick smear of cream will never become butter and that he’s going to have to stand there forever, watching the teacher circle the bowl with the beaters, and maybe miss recess. It is true that this intermediate stage takes kind of a long time. To keep this kind of kid from ruining everyone’s fond butter memories with crying, teachers with risk-seeking personalities may let the kids take turns holding the mixer and bowl. Mine did, which increased the fun quotient considerably, although in today’s bike helmet-wearing culture I doubt anyone would chance it. All of a sudden, the cream, which until that point had seemed to become thicker and thicker like whipped butter, collapses into a pool of liquid. The butter-making experiment seems to have gone horribly wrong. Moments later, though, a thin, milky liquid sloshes around the bowl and the teacher turns off the mixer. The beaters emerge, covered in butter, and after a quick rinse in the sink in the back of the room, everyone, including the panicky kid, lines up for a slice of bread with fresh butter and a little sprinkling of salt. And that, my friends, is how we party in Wisconsin.

Butter-making: so easy even a kid can watch a machine do it.

Of course, you can buy butter. Salted and unsalted, cultured butter, goat’s butter, the butter made from the cream skimmed off the milk used to make Parmigiano-Reggiano (yes, I know), organic butter, conventional butter. Why am I suggesting that you make your own, with all the options available? Because you owe it to yourself to taste just-made butter from fresh cream, before it’s had a chance to sit in some supermarket inventory for weeks, or even in your refrigerator, going rancid and absorbing all the weird smells of leftovers and vegetables going bad.

I’m not suggesting you make all or even most of the butter you use – that’s crazy talk, especially if you mostly use butter for baking or cooking, and you probably shouldn’t use house-made butter for baking because it’s just not cost effective. But if you compare the cost of house-made butter using a really good fresh cream with the cost of an organic cultured butter to spread on bread or finish a sauce, I think you’ll find that the cost is about even up or lower. For example, pints of heavy cream from Trickling Springs Creamery – an organic dairy just over the Maryland border in south central Pennsylvania – cost about $4.59 at my local organic market, but $2 of that is the bottle deposit, so the cream is just $2.59/pint. I used two pints – a quart, in other words – to make cultured cream, which I turned into almost a pound of butter. Eight ounces of organic cultured butter runs about $6 or so; my eight ounces of butter rang in at well under $3 after the bottle deposit. So this isn’t such a bad deal, and you get buttermilk as well.

Try not to make more than you’ll use in a week. This is about enjoying the freshest product, after all, and why let your delicious butter go rancid? If you make too much, though, it keeps well in the freezer, tightly sealed. Your butter yield will depend on the fat content of the cream, so go for something rich.

A load of rich creamery butter
Ever wonder why certain boxes of supermarket butter say “Sweet Cream Butter” and others don’t? “Sweet Cream Butter” is made from fresh, unfermented cream. Contrary to popular belief, the “sweet” designation has nothing to do with whether the butter has been salted or not – it refers only to the use of fresh cream. Sweet cream butter, when fresh, has a super-clean, pure taste and shouldn’t smell or taste “buttery” when cold; it will smell buttery once it meets a hot pan.

Cultured butter, sometimes called “European-style butter” in the United States, is made from cream that has undergone lactic acid fermentation, the same process that gives us crème fraîche, sour cream, and yoghurt. Cultured butter, when fresh, does have a little of that “buttery” smell and taste even when cold. That’s because lactic acid fermentation produces diacetyl, the compound responsible for butter’s “buttery” quality. In larger quantities – such as in rancid butter, or in artificial butter – it can overwhelm. Diacetyl is one of the principal components of artificial butter flavor; if you’ve ever wondered why movie theater and microwave popcorns have that too-pungent buttery character, blame the diacetyl. Rancid butter – sweet or cultured – also develops butyric acid, a sour milk-cheesy-barnyardy smelling compound. Butyric acid is nasty. So keep your butter in the freezer if you’re not going to use it within a week or so.

One pint of cold heavy cream (50% or more butterfat)
Fine salt (sea salt is best)
3 tbsp cultured buttermilk or 2.5g dried yoghurt starter culture [optional]

To prepare cultured butter, bring the cream to 110F and add the buttermilk/yoghurt starter culture. Place in a jar or similar container and leave at room temperature for 8-10 hours (wrap well in kitchen towels). If the idea of doing this freaks you out, use a yoghurt maker. At this point, you will have crème fraîche. Refrigerate well before using. Feel free to skip this step entirely if you want to make sweet cream butter.

If you have a stand mixer with a whip, use it. And if you have one of those mixer bowl pouring shields (I don’t), use that as well. You’ll see why later. Otherwise, use a large bowl – as large as you can find –and a hand mixer, electric or otherwise.

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Pour the fresh cream or crème fraîche into the bowl. Begin beating (I like speed 6 on the KitchenAid; you don’t gain anything by going slower and I do think you run the risk of warming the cream if you go faster). The cream will form soft peaks, then stiff-ish peaks, and then become overbeaten. In this step, the fat particles form a network with air bubbles.

Continue beating. The cream will continue to thicken and form a mass resembling buttercream, or whipped butter, around the bowl. In this step, the fat droplets clump together and the air bubbles pop. You can scrape it down with a silicone spatula from time to time, but you don’t have to.

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Eventually – if you use speed 6 and don’t scrape the bowl it takes less than ten minutes from the start of the process – a thin, milky liquid will start to collect at the bottom of the bowl and the cream will become more clotted-looking. In this last step, almost all the fat has clumped together, and separated from the non-fat liquid. That liquid is buttermilk. Keep going. Soon after, the solids will collapse into the buttermilk. Don’t freak out – it’s just because the speed of the mixer temporarily has distributed the fat particles throughout the buttermilk. It hasn’t turned back into cream and you won’t have to start over.

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Within a minute or two, you should experience a great sloshing as the butter clumps together, sticking to itself in the bowl and around the whisk or beaters. This is where the pouring shield comes in handy, because the sloshing can make quite a mess. Turn off the mixer.

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Place the whisk or beaters in a clean bowl full of cold water and pour the buttermilk through a chinois or fine sieve into a jar. Save the buttermilk. Combine the butter solids with the rest of your butter in the bowl of cold water.

Remove the butter from the whisk and combine into a mass. Rinse well several times in ice water until your water runs clear. Knead the butter into a smooth, pliable lump, expelling as much liquid as possible. This is a good time to add sea salt, maybe ½ tsp, if you want salted butter. Rinse again.

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And there’s your butter. You should have about 8 ounces from a pint of 50% butterfat cream. Don’t throw out the buttermilk!

Buttermilk

The buttermilk that remains after butter-making is called “churn buttermilk.” It doesn’t really resemble the stuff you buy in quart containers in the store, which is just nonfat or low-fat milk that’s been cultured with bacteria to initiate lactic acid fermentation, and thickened with carrageenan (a naturally occurring hydrocolloid which forms gels in the presence of calcium and is a popular dairy thickener for this reason), and locust bean gum. Churn buttermilk is less tart than this so-called cultured buttermilk (even if a byproduct of butter made from cultured cream), and is thin, like milk, not thick. Most churn buttermilk is freeze-dried for commercial food processing and baking.

You can drink it, of course, or you can use it to make buttermilk biscuits. Or use it to make fried chicken, or buttermilk ice cream!

Buttermilk fried chicken
One whole chicken, cut up into ten pieces (legs, thighs, wings, breasts cut in half with a cleaver)
3-4 c buttermilk from above recipe
1 tbsp kosher salt (plus 1 tsp if using 4 c buttermilk)
1 tsp garlic powder
6 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf

2 c flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper

Vegetable oil or lard

Combine the buttermilk, salt, garlic powder, thyme, and bay leaf. Mix well, ensuring the salt is dissolved. Add the chicken, cover the container, and refrigerate overnight.

Combine the flour, salt, paprika, garlic and onion powders, and cayenne in a large bowl. Prepare a sheet pan with a rack. Place a heavy and 2 to 3 inch deep pan (such as a sauté pan or cast iron pan) over medium heat with about ¾” oil. Bring the oil to 365F/185C. Unless you intend to cook in batches, you may wish to cook in two pans.

Drain the chicken but do not pat dry. Dredge each piece in flour, coating completely (leave no wet spots) and shaking off excess. Lower the chicken pieces into the hot fat. Do not crowd the pan or pans. Fry until golden on one side; turn over and cook until golden on the other side. Turn over twice to crisp. The chicken must have an internal temperature of at least 165F/74C at the bone but you may prefer it somewhat more done. I like chicken around 170F/76C. Remove from the oil with a wire skimmer or tongs and drain on the racks (don’t use paper towels; they can trap steam and make your crust soggy). To keep warm, place the racks in a 250F/120C oven.

Serve with biscuits and pickles.

Buttermilk ice cream
Use buttermilk instead of milk in this light, refreshing ice cream, a natural with fresh berries. I prefer the Philadelphia-style ice creams – containing no egg – to the custard type, so like most of the ice creams I make, this one contains no egg. Without the heavy, rich egg yolk coating your tongue, everything else has a more intense taste.

2 c buttermilk from above recipe
2 c heavy cream, as rich as possible
1 ¼ c sugar (caster/superfine sugar is best)
Zest of one lemon, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vodka

Combine buttermilk, cream, and sugar in a heavy pot and bring to 170C, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely. Add the lemon zest.

Cool quickly in a bain marie full of ice and, when cool, stir in the lemon juice and vodka. Whisk well to incorporate. Freeze as appropriate for your ice cream maker and scoop into two pint containers. Transfer to the freezer and freeze hard for at least 4-6 hours.

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eggs, Quick Meals, Random Thoughts, Science

Çılbır.

I’m just going to come out and say it. I love eggs. As a kid, I used to go crazy for soft boiled eggs – with salt straight from the shaker – and sunny side up eggs. My dad is a terrific egg cook and liked to scramble eggs for us, adding just a dash of soy sauce for savor, or a drizzle over the sunny side ups. When I cooked eggs on weekends – usually getting up and heading downstairs to watch cartoons before anyone else was around – I liked to scramble up to half a dozen eggs, throwing in a slice of American cheese per egg and a few grinds of black pepper, and eat them with multiple slices of buttered toast, while sitting on the kitchen counter next to the toaster. Good times.

I’m not putting away six eggs at a time any more – or doing a lot of the things you can get away with as a kid, to be frank – but I would if I could. I love eggs. Hen’s eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs – they’re all good. Soft-boiled, hard-boiled, sunny-side up, over-easy, low temperature, poached, tortilla … All good.

Eggs are endlessly adaptable because, among living foods, they possess a unique physical structure. Egg yolks contain cholesterol, fat, and lecithin, which permits them to emulsify liquids, as in aïoli or mayonnaise. Egg white albumin contains about forty different proteins, and the long protein strands denature on cooking and aeration, causing them to solidify. This characteristic permits egg whites to lend structure to dishes, whether they’re the main ingredient, as in meringues, or the silent partner, as in quenelles.

Egg yolk and white solidify at different temperatures, yielding the classic poached or sunny-side up egg with a runny yolk. For me, those are the best ways to eat eggs – I like that perfectly cooked white and the rich, decadent, warm yolk, as good as any sauce or salad dressing. For me, the absolute best flavor with poached or fried eggs is brown butter, spooned over the eggs while still bubbling hot. In Turkey, there’s an egg dish called çılbır, involving poached eggs, served on yoghurt, with paprika butter spooned over all. You wouldn’t think that eggs and yoghurt would be good together, but they are. Good for breakfast, dinner, any time.

Modern çılbır

Modern Çılbır

This is an updated çılbır, featuring less yoghurt and combining dried mint with the traditional paprika. That combination, added to sizzling butter, is a classic Turkish finish for the tiny meat dumplings called manti. Use dried mint, not fresh. To facilitate eating every last bit of the brown butter and runny egg yolk, I have served it on toast.

Now, about poaching. Most recipes call for adding some distilled white vinegar to the poaching water for the eggs. The science behind that instruction is sound – acid causes egg albumen (the white) to coagulate, resulting in a more reliable poached egg. I don’t use vinegar, because I don’t like the faint pickled taste it imparts to the egg and the slight skin that forms on the surface. And anyway, if you maintain an appropriate water temperature, you don’t need the vinegar at all. Poach the egg any way you can, and use vinegar if you like, but I’ll give my instructions below.

Instead of poaching the egg conventionally, you can cook it @ 62C/143.5F in an immersion circulator for an hour. Start the eggs at room temperature, not cold. This yields a less firm white than conventional poaching, but it’s completely set and the yolk will be runny. If you want, you can increase the temperature to as much as 64C/147F for something closer to a soft-boiled egg.

4 eggs
4 slices rustic white bread, sliced 3/8″
1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp dried mint leaves
1/4 c unsalted butter
sea salt
drained house-made yoghurt, or Greek yoghurt

Toast the bread on both sides under a broiler or in a toaster. For a tighter presentation, use a 3″ biscuit cutter or ring mold to cut the bread into circles first. [In the photos, I dispensed with this step.] Save the outer portion of the bread for eggs in a hole or for use as croutons or breadcrumbs (you can store them in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for weeks).

Heat unsalted butter in a small saucepan; when foamy, add paprika and crushed mint leaves. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, poach the eggs or controlled temperature cook @ 62C for an hour. To poach eggs my way, bring a small saucepot of water, filled about 2″ deep, to the point that steam rises from the surface but the water is not visibly bubbling. Crack each egg directly into the water, or into a small prep bowl – those tiny glass bowls that hold about 1/3 cup are perfect – and pour it into the water. Don’t cook more than two at a time. Using a slotted spoon or a wire skimmer, such as one might use for frying, turn the egg from underneath, taking care not to disturb the water too much. You can form the egg into a fairly nice sphere if you turn it every 10-15 seconds. Don’t raise the heat. As long as the water is steaming on the surface, it’s definitely hot enough to poach. Continue poaching until the white is no longer clear and lift it out with the slotted spoon/wire skimmer.

Blot dry the poached egg using a kitchen towel and place on toast. Drizzle with paprika-mint brown butter. Season with sea salt. Spoon yoghurt over top.

A perfectly poached egg.

Poached eggs/brown butter/fried sage

4 eggs
4 slices white bread or brioche
dozen sage leaves
1/4 c unsalted butter
sea salt
optional: black truffle

Cut a 3″ circle from slice of bread with biscuit cutter or ring mold; toast both sides of the rounds under a broiler or in a toaster. Save the outer portion of the bread for eggs in a hole or for use as croutons or breadcrumbs (you can store them in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for weeks).

Heat unsalted butter in a small saucepan; when foamy, add sage leaves and fry until crisp.

Meanwhile, poach the eggs according to the instructions above, or controlled temperature cook @ 62C for an hour.

Blot dry the poached egg using a kitchen towel and place on toast rounds. Drizzle with brown butter. Season with sea salt and fried sage; shave just a little black truffle over if you’re using it.

Poached egg, toast, sage brown butter.

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Italian, Leftover Recycling

Arancini.

Who doesn’t love risotto fresh out of the pot? It’s creamy and filling without being too rich or heavy, and makes a great first course.

Leftover risotto is another story. Unlike plain steamed rice, risotto can’t be reheated without losing most of the qualities that make it great. The rice grains lose their al dente bite, becoming mushy and gluey; herb and cheese flavors become dull, absorbed into the starch. But don’t worry – it doesn’t have to go to waste. You can make arancini.

Small fried balls of rice encasing some filling – a ragù, mozzarella cheese, peas, or butter – resemble little oranges, or arancini in Italian. These are most commonly found in southern Italy – Rome down to Siciliy – and are not necessarily made with leftover risotto. Arancini are the best use for leftover risotto, though – the rice is firm enough to surround a moist filling. Plus, I’m a big fan of recycling.

Try these two recipes, one filled with mozzarella and the other with a little cube of herbed butter, which melts when the arancini are fried. What? You don’t have any risotto on hand? Use this recipe, omitting the marrow, sage, and brown butter and substituting minced chives and a squeeze of lemon juice.

In each recipe, I have provided two breading alternatives. The simpler alternative involves simply rolling the formed risotto ball in a seasoned breadcrumb mixture. This method yields a lighter arancino, and the rice on the exterior becomes a bit crisp. If you prefer a more traditional breading, dredge the risotto ball in flour and then egg before coating in the seasoned breadcrumbs.

Arancine con formaggio

2 cups cooked risotto, according to the above recipe, or any other leftover risotto
2 ounces mozzarella, cut into 16 pieces
Optional: 2 eggs, beaten with 1 tbsp water, and 1 c flour
1 c fine breadcrumbs (you may substitute crushed panko)
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 c vegetable and olive oil (total. A combination of 3:1 is nice)

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano in a pan or bowl.

Cup the palm of one hand and place about 2 tbsp risotto in your cupped palm. Form a well in the risotto and place one piece of mozzarella in the center. Enclose the cheese with the risotto and form an even ball.

Heat a deep pot containing the oil to 350F/175C. Have a wire skimmer ready.

If using the flour and egg, dip the arancini one at a time in the flour, shake off excess, into the beaten egg (again shaking off excess), and finally in the breadcrumbs. If not using the flour and egg, simply coat well in the breadcrumbs, shaking off excess.

Fry in batches, turning over as necessary (the oil may not completely submerge the arancini), until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pot or the arancini will be oily.

Drain on a rack and hold in a 200F/95C oven until ready to serve. Do not drain on towels – this tends to steam fried foods and makes them soggy. Serve with a simple red sauce.

Arancine con burro

2 cups cooked risotto, according to the above recipe, or any other leftover risotto
2 ounces salted butter
1 tbsp minced chives
1 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
Optional: 2 eggs, beaten with 1 tbsp water, and 1 c flour
1 c fine breadcrumbs (you may substitute crushed panko)
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 c vegetable and olive oil (total. A combination of 3:1 is nice)

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano in a pan or bowl. Combine the butter and herbs, and form into a small cube or brick. Roll in plastic wrap and chill or freeze until solid. Divide into sixteen equal portions and keep the butter cold until ready to use.

Cup the palm of one hand and place about 2 tbsp risotto in your cupped palm. Form a well in the risotto and place one piece of herbed butter in the center. Enclose the butter with the risotto and form an even ball. Take care that the butter is completely enclosed or it will leak during frying.

Heat a deep pot containing the oil to 350F/175C. Have a wire skimmer ready.

If using the flour and egg, dip the arancini one at a time in the flour, shake off excess, into the beaten egg (again shaking off excess), and finally in the breadcrumbs. If not using the flour and egg, simply coat well in the breadcrumbs, shaking off excess. Fry in batches, turning over as necessary (the oil may not completely submerge the arancini), until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pot or the arancini will be oily.

Drain on a rack and hold in a 200F/95C oven until ready to serve. Do not drain on towels – this tends to steam fried foods and makes them soggy.

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