What to Do with Leftover Risotto

Anyone who has made risotto more than a handful of times has certainly realized the down side (apart from the endless stirring necessary in the traditional method) of this otherwise delightful dish. Risotto makes terrible leftovers. The interplay of creamy sauce and tender rice with a firm interior is simply destroyed by reheating. Instead of al dente rice, you are left with what amounts to little more than a pile of starchy mush. The creamy sauce created when surface starch from the rice mixes with the hot stock dries out, becoming stiff and gummy. Even the flavor suffers, as the starch granules in the rice over-gelatinize with the added heat, and the additional starch released muddies the flavors.

So what, then, do you do when you've made a bit too much risotto for dinner, as I did the other night while playing with huitlacoche? Take a cue from the Italians (they invented the dish, after all), and make arancini or suppli.

Both dishes really amount to the same thing - balls of leftover risotto, breaded and deep fried - they differ only in the filling. Sicilians turn their leftover risotto into arancini, filling their rice balls with meaty ragu before deep-frying. This is perfect if you also happen to have made too much ragu in the past few days. Since I hadn't, I went Roman. In Rome, suppli are filled with cheese, usually mozzarella, before frying.

I set up a standard three-step breading station of flour, egg-wash, and breadcrumbs and got to work. I had a bit of lightly smoked goat cheese, firm and boldly flavored, and molded my suppli around cubes of it, making sure I worked quickly and with the risotto cold so as to better keep its shape. When I had stuffed cheese into ten golf ball sized suppli, I breaded them and set them on a rack to await their turn in the oil.

The frying involved a bit of guesswork, as I couldn't find my candy/fry thermometer. I poured a little more than an inch of oil into a deep, heavy bottomed pot, set the flame on medium-high, and waited until the oil's viscosity had thinned out, and it appeared shimmery. A good test for oil temperature is to drop in a piece of sandwich bread. It should float immediately, and turn a nice golden brown in something around 45 seconds. Sinking bread means your oil is too cold, and burning bread means it's too hot. This works pretty well in gauging oil meant for 350 degrees.

Bread test successful, I fried the suppli until golden brown, working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot and drop the oil temperature significantly. As I fished them out, I set them on a wire rack on a baking sheet lined with paper towels, lightly salted them while still hot, and placed them in a warm oven to keep them hot while I finished the remaining batches.

Once they were all done, I put them on the table, offering a dipping sauce of leftover zucchini puree from the risotto served the night before, figuring that if the flavors clicked the first time, they'd certainly click this time. They did, though my kids preferred dipping theirs in the marinara sauce my wife had made. Either way, the suppli were hot, crispy, and thoroughly delicious. The smoky, slightly tangy cheese worked well with the earthy flavors from the risotto, and the textural contrast of crisp breading to soft risotto to oozy cheese was exactly as it should be. The only complaint we could muster was that I might have put a slightly larger piece of cheese inside each suppli.

That was a minor quibble, as the suppli disappeared just about as quickly as I'd set them on the table. They were almost better than the risotto itself had been, and certainly justification for making risotto more regularly.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall