Cooking with Jonathan By Jonathan Jolicoeur

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In this weekly culinary column, I will be focusing on one dish – giving the reader a quick history of the dish, the classical preparation of it, and of course, my own spin on the classic.

This week I have chosen to cover arancini – a dish which is said to owe its
origins to Sicily sometime around the 10th century. Arancini are essentially rice balls that have been stuffed, breaded and deep fried. The rice is typically arborio, although though other rices may be used. The more common fillings for arancini are: ragus, tomato sauces or cheeses. The name arancini itself is said to be derived from the Italian word for “arancia” or orange, thus making “arancini” little oranges.

Traditional arancini recipe

2 cups​Risotto, cooked and cooled
½ cup​Parmesan cheese, grated
1½ cup​Italian bread crumbs
4 oz​Mozzarella cheese, large diced
2 lg​Eggs, beaten
to taste​Sea salt, freshly cracked pepper
​Vegetable oil, enough for deep frying

Risotto recipe for arancini

1½ cup​Arborio rice
2​Shallots, minced
2​Garlic cloves, minced
2 oz​Unsalted butter
2 tbsp​Olive oil
8 cup​Chicken broth, warmed
2/3 cup​White wine
2/3 cup​Parmesan cheese, grated
to taste​Sea salt, freshly cracked pepper

Allow a medium-sized sauce pot to warm over low-medium heat. Add your butter and allow to melt. Once melted, add your shallots and allow to cook for roughly 2 minutes before adding your garlic. Continue to cook while stirring for 2 more minutes. Add your rice and stir to coat. Cook for 2 minutes before adding your wine. Cook until wine is absorbed before adding 1 cup of chicken stock. Allow stock to be absorbed while stirring before repeating the process. Once all chicken stock is absorbed, add your parmesan cheese and mix to incorporate. Place risotto on a sheet tray and refrigerate, allowing it to cool and be used for the arancini.

Once risotto rice is cooled, fill a large sauce pot with roughly a gallon of cooking oil. Allow to warm on medium-high heat to roughly 350 degrees. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, place your risotto, beaten eggs and parmesan cheese and mix well to incorporate. With a 1 oz scoop, scoop out risotto into balls until all risotto in bowl is gone. Now place 1 piece of the large diced mozzarella into the ball and be sure it is fully enclosed. Repeat process until all balls are filled with mozzarella. Place bread crumbs into a medium sized bowl and roll balls in bread crumb until evenly coated. Set aside and repeat until all balls have been breaded. Cook balls in batches, making sure not to let the oil cool. Cook for roughly 4 minutes, turning the balls when necessary. Once golden brown, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on draining rack or on paper towel. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Allow arancini to rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Jonathan’s arancini recipe

2 cups​Risotto, cooked and cooled (see above)
½ cups​Parmesan cheese, grated
1½ cup​Italian bread crumbs
8 oz​Boar ragu
2 lg​Eggs, beaten
to taste​Sea salt, freshly cracked pepper
​Vegetable oil, enough for deep frying

Boar ragu recipe for arancini

1 lb​Wild boar shoulder, cut into 8 pieces
2 oz​Cooking oil
1 cup​Onion, diced
2 oz​Carrot, diced
2 oz​Celery, diced
2​Garlic cloves, minced
3 oz​Tomato paste
8 cups​Red wine
4​Bay leaves
4​Sprigs of rosemary
4​Sprigs of thyme
to taste​Sea salt, freshly cracked pepper

Place the boar, red wine, ½ cup onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme and 2 sprigs of rosemary into a non-reactive bowl and allow to marinate overnight. Drain off liquid and pat boar dry. Season with sea salt and pepper. Allow a large sauce pot to warm over high heat. Add your oil and bring to almost the point of smoking. Place your boar into pot and allow to brown for roughly 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once meat has browned, remove it from the pan. Place your celery, carrot and remaining onion in the pan. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and add your garlic. Cook for ten minutes, or until moisture is almost gone. Add your tomato paste and mix well. Add your boar back to the pan – as well as your red wine and herbs. Cover and allow to lightly simmer for roughly 2 hours, or until the boar is tender. Once the boar is tender, remove from the pan and lightly shred. Strain the sauce and add back to the pan. Reduce sauce over low heat until just enough sauce remains to coat the boar – roughly ten minutes at this point. Add boar back to the pan and coat. Lay out on a sheet tray and refrigerate, allowing it to cool and be used for arancini.

Once the risotto and boar ragu are cooled, fill a large sauce pot with roughly a gallon of cooking oil. Allow to warm on medium-high heat to roughly 350 degrees. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, place your risotto, beaten eggs and parmesan cheese – mix well to incorporate. With a 1 oz scoop, scoop out risotto into balls until all risotto in bowl is gone. Now place 1 ball in your hand and using your thumb, make an indent into the rice. Fill this indent with ½ oz of the boar ragu and close rice around the ragu, making sure it is fully enclosed. Repeat process until all balls are filled with ragu. Place bread crumbs into a medium sized bowl and roll balls in bread crumbs until evenly coated. Set aside and repeat until all balls have been breaded. Cook balls in batches, making sure not to let the oil cool. Cook for roughly 4 minutes, turning the balls when necessary. Once golden brown, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on draining rack or on paper towels. Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Allow arancini to rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Whether you choose to prepare the classic, my twist or your own interpretation, remember that food is about bringing people together and that the act of cooking is about caring and as long as your heart is in the dish you prepare, the people you are cooking for will appreciate it (and you).

If you have any questions for me or would like to see me cover any particular dish in this column, feel free to write me, care of this publication. From my kitchen to yours, it is my pleasure to give you a peek into the mind of a chef. Thank You

Jonathan Jolicoeur is a chef at A Tavola – an Italian restaurant on Church Street in Winchester – which focuses on “farm to table” style of cooking. Jonathan was born in Somerville, lives in Woburn and has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

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