Arancini, one of the best food inventions ever in my opinion, are traditionally made with creamy risotto. They are typically stuffed with some sort of ground meat and cheese, breaded, and fried. I had the best arancini of my life in Sicily, where they were the size of softballs and stuffed with pistachio pesto (!). I definitely plan on turning my favorite Butternut Squash Risotto into delightful arancini balls one day.
Today though, these fried rice balls get a jazzy makeover with jambalaya instead of the usual risotto. And, instead of mozzarella or provolone, I opted for a smoked Gouda which melted beautifully and played well with the spices and rich flavor of the jambalaya. If New Orleans and Italy had a food baby, this is what you’d get.
Zatarain’s sent me some of their Frozen Meals for Two to play with. To be honest, I was skeptical at first. I usually don’t do frozen meals and it’s rare that I like them. But I was pleasantly surprised with Zatarain’s jambalaya in a bag. It was robust with flavor, and I was surprised at how good the meat tasted. No weird, shriveled mystery meat here. This was real white meat chicken and delicious Andouille sausage.
And I’ll admit, you just can’t beat the convenience. Just dump the bag in a skillet and cover it like so…
10 minutes later…chango presto…
Since arancini are a bit labor intensive, I appreciated that at least this first step of making the jambalaya was this stupid easy.
While I let the jambalaya chill thoroughly (this makes shaping the balls much easier and helps them keep their shape during frying), I set up my breading station (flour, eggs, panko) and cubed up the Gouda.
Since these were to be served as hors d’oeuvres, I made the arancini golf ball-sized. You can eyeball, but I used my trusty cookie scoop (I love that thing). Forming the balls can be a sticky situation. I found that wetting my hands helped, and also used a patting motion to get those puppies into shape.
So, a cube of cheese gets tucked into each ball so that you get that wonderful melty cheese surprise when you bite into it later. You form a ball (pat pat pat). Roll in flour, dunk in egg mixture, roll in panko.
Now you’re ready to fry. Pour enough oil into a deep frying pan or dutch oven to fill it about 2 inches. Heat the oil to 350 degrees and then carefully fry 3 to 4 arancini at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan. If you add too many at once, your oil temp will drop down. No bueno. Transfer your golden balls to a wire rack set over a paper towel-lined sheet pan as you finish frying the entire batch.
Devour instantly, preferably with some remoulade sauce for dipping. Now the only question left is whether to serve this with a Sazerac or a Negroni?
If New Orleans and Sicily had a food baby, this is what you would get. These fried rice balls get a jazzy makeover with jambalaya instead of the traditional risotto. Oozy smoked Gouda in the center play well with the spices and rich flavor of the jambalaya.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: about 15 arancini
- Pour frozen jambalaya into a large non-stick skillet and cover. Cook on medium heat 5 minutes. Remove lid and stir. Cook, covered, 5 minutes longer, or until chicken, sausage, and rice are hot. Toss lightly. Break up chicken and sausage into small pieces. Let cool completely, then place in refrigerator to chill thoroughly.
- Beat one egg and mix into the jambalaya.
- Prep your breading station with separate bowls for flour, 2 beaten eggs, and panko.
- Take about 2 tablespoons of the jambalaya mixture into your palm, and tuck a cube of cheese in the center. Form the rice into a ball (it should be about the size of a golf ball), encasing the cheese completely so you cannot see it. I find that a patting motion, rather than rolling, works well. If it is sticky, try wetting your hands.
- Gently roll the ball first in the flour, then in the eggs, and finally in the panko, shaking off excess after each coating. Place it on a large rimmed sheet pan, and repeat until all the jambalaya is gone.
- To fry, pour enough vegetable oil to fill about 2 inches in a deep frying pan or dutch oven. Heat to 350 degrees and try to maintain throughout frying.
- Carefully fry 3 to 4 arancini at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan, and turn until they are golden brown on all sides. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a wire rack set over a paper towel-lined sheet pan. Repeat until all the arancini are fried.
- Best served immediately, with a remoulade sauce for dipping. (Make Ahead Note: You can also fry up a few hours ahead of time, let sit at room temp, then reheat/recrisp in oven at 400 degrees. If you have leftovers, they are also good the next morning reheated in the oven.)
Bonus: Zatarain’s is giving away a week’s worth of Frozen Entrées every day until 3/31 so you can get a chance to try the meals for yourself. Find out more about the contest here.
Disclosure: I wrote this post while participating in the Zatarain’s 2012 Ambassador Program. I was compensated for my time, and was sent a box of free frozen meals to experiment with, but all opinions (and increased waistline) are my own.