French Onion Soup Arancini

**Note** A friend of mine gently told me it was time to get serious about the photography on the blog. I’ve been mostly using my iPhone to snap quick photos as I cook, which is mostly at night and under less-than-ideal overhead lights. But she was right. No more grainy iPhone photos. It’s time to get real.

Okay. On with the show.

To begin, Rebecca and I are in disagreement about how these arancini, or “little oranges,” turned out. I happen to really love these Sicilian fried rice balls, no matter what is stuffed inside. Usually it’s a little bit of fresh mozzarella and marinara, but this twist fills them with “French onion soup,” or a bit of gruyere and onion jam. Following the recipe in Tyler Florence’s Test Kitchen Cookbook, I was hopeful that the arancini would turn out to be the crispy, hot little spheres that Mr. Florence promised.

Fast forward 15 minutes to find arancini angrily tearing themselves apart in the hot oil: Panko breading, globs of risotto, and cheese-filling creating a scaldingly hot mess inside the pot. TYLER?!?! WHYYYYY???


My mind immediately went into Fix-It Mode. Was the oil too hot? Did I miss some essential step or ingredient? Was there a flour dusting and egg wash step that I missed? I turned the heat down and took another look at the cookbook. I had done everything Tyler did. I tried one more ball in the oil and, once again, catastrophe.

I have a thing about the food I make. I care a lot about what people think about it. I can’t serve a bunch of destroyed arancini, even to my wife who will love me no matter what. Food is love, expressed. That’s how I’ve always felt about it. So maybe a part of me thinks that serving a food-fail is an expression of less love than I really feel.

I didn’t cry about it though, because I’m an emotional robot.


Don’t turn your back on the empty risotto bowl.

What I did do is throw the little breaded nuggets on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake them until they were crispy on the outside. They sunk and lost their pleasant spherical shape, but they were still delicious. They really were. So maybe it didn’t matter that they weren’t perfect?

One day at a time.


French Onion Soup Arancini (adapted, and including a flour/egg step, from Tyler Florence: Inside the Test Kitchen)


  • Balsamic-Onion Jam – available by Rothschild and Stonewall Kitchen
  • 6oz Gruyere cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Simple risotto, pre-made made any way you want, from 1 cup dry arborio rice
  • 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • 2 long sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed from stems
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

Preheat oven to low setting, about 200 degrees F.

Put a golfball-sized portion of risotto rice in the palm of your hand and make a depression. Fill with a half teaspoon of jam and a cube of cheese and add a glob of rice on top to seal the goodness inside and form a sphere. Repeat until no rice remains.

Heat the oil in a deep pot to 375 degrees F. Set out the four, eggs, and Panko in three dishes. Dust each rice ball with flour, dredge in egg, and coat thoroughly with Panko crumbs. Fry as many as will comfortably fit in oil until golden and crispy, about 4 minutes.

Transfer arancini to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt and parmesan. Place on a sheet pan and place in oven to keep warm until all the rice balls are fried.

Last, flash fry the rosemary and sage. It will take about 15 seconds or less to crisp them up. Immediately transfer to paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Once plated, sprinkle herbs on top as a garnish.


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