Diane’s Beet and Goat Cheese Arancini

Beet and goat cheese arancini-coverI have never been a big fan of beets. I love their bright purple hue but find them a little too sweet and slimy on their own. However, since so many people love them, I figured it was time I jump on the beet bandwagon. I asked my Facebook friends for their best beet recipes, and several suggested some version of beets with goat cheese: served together as a side dish, tossed with greens and vinaigrette as a salad, and even beet ravioli filled with goat cheese. After trying the combo, I was instantly hooked. The sweet and earthy flavor of the beets contrasted perfectly with the sharp tang of the goat cheese.

I started thinking of other ways to pair the two flavors. Since I already had beet risotto on my Things to Try with Beets list, I was suddenly struck by inspiration: arancini! Bite-sized snacks hailing from Sicily, arancini (air-an-CHEE-nee) are stuffed balls of risotto, breaded and deep fried. I have tried several versions of arancini over the years, so I had a pretty good idea how I would go about making mine. Just before I started, I figured I should check online to see if these had been made before. Why reinvent the wheel, right? I was happy to find this recipe, which was pretty much exactly how I was planning to make them.

So one lazy Sunday when blustery autumn winds kept me indoors, I consulted both recipes and set to work. The moment I bit into the first crisp ball, fresh from the fryer and oozing with pink-tinged goat cheese, I was hooked. Again. I think I might love beets after all.

Keep in mind that making these from start to finish will take quite a bit of time, so feel free to work in stages and refrigerate things along the way to continue later.

Diane’s Beet and Goat Cheese Arancini

For the beet risotto:
1 large beet (6 to 8 oz), roasted and peeled
32 oz chicken or vegetable stock
2 T butter
1 small onion, minced
1 C Arborio rice
½ C dry white wine
½ to 1 t salt (adjust to taste)
1 bay leaf
1 small sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
¾ C freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the arancini:
3-4 oz goat cheese (chevre), chilled and crumbled
1 C flour (add more if needed)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 C panko breadcrumbs (add more if needed)
Vegetable or canola oil for frying (enough to fill a saucepan 2-3” high)

For the glaze (optional):
¼ C balsamic vinegar
2 t brown sugar

Roast and puree the beet:
Follow my tips for an easy way to roast and peel beets. Cut the roasted beet into eighths and place in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth, scraping the sides often and adding up to ¼ C water to maintain a smooth consistency. Set aside or refrigerate until later.

For the risotto:
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken or vegetable stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Keep the stock at a low simmer until it’s all been used.

In a large pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the rice and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, until the rice is lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.

Pour in the white wine and stir until most of it has absorbed into the rice. Add the warm stock, one ladle at a time. Stir frequently until the stock has been fully absorbed into the rice each time before adding more.

Keep adding the stock and stirring, and with the last ladle of stock, add the sprig of rosemary, if using, to the pan. Continue stirring until the risotto is creamy but its texture is still firm to the bite. Add the beet puree, mix it in well, and keep stirring until the risotto is creamy and soft, with an al dente bite to it. Stir in the grated parmesan; add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the risotto on it, in about a ½” deep layer, and allow it to cool completely. (You can cover the risotto with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until ready to use.)

For the arancini:
Place the flour, eggs and panko each in a separate bowl.

Using a 2” cookie cutter (or something else small and round), cut the cooled risotto into evenly shaped rounds. Leave them in place on the parchment and press a marble-sized (½” to ¾”) piece of goat cheese in the middle of each round.

Using a spatula, carefully lift up a piece and place it in the palm of one hand. Curl that hand slightly to form a bowl and use the other hand to shape the risotto into a ball, completely enclosing the cheese. Wet hands with water if the risotto starts to stick to them. Form all the balls and set aside, or refrigerate until later.

Gently roll each ball in the flour, shaking off excess, then add it to the eggs to coat, shaking off excess, and then place it the panko, coating it completely. To minimize messy fingers, use a slotted spoon to move the balls from the flour to the eggs, use one hand to coat the balls with egg and move to the panko, and the other hand to coat with panko and remove). Set panko-coated balls aside and continue until all are coated.

Heat oil to 350 F to 375 F, either in a deep fryer or in saucepan. Add a few arancini at a time, leaving plenty of space between them, and keep turning the arancini until golden brown on all sides, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined sheet pan. Allow the oil to reach 350 F to 375 F again before adding more.

Serve while hot with balsamic glaze (optional) or reheat in a 350 F oven to serve later.

For the optional balsamic glaze:
Combine balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a bowl, then lower heat to low and let simmer until reduced by about half. It will have a syrupy consistency thick enough to coat a spoon. Allow to cool before using.

Step by Step Details
Puree the roasted beet, adding water as needed to smooth it out. Mine was pretty chunky, but that’s fine.

Beet risotto 001

For the risotto:

Pretty basic ingredients here, but be sure to use Arborio (risotto) rice. It’s got the extra starch that is released by all the stirring, and that’s what gives the risotto its ultra-creamy consistency.

As for wine, I would stay away from anything too sweet, too fruity or too oaky. You want it to enhance the flavor, not overtake it. Stick with a mild, somewhat neutral, dry white, like pinot grigio. I used up the Soave I had in the fridge, and it worked great.

Beet risotto 004

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat, then add the onion. A pan with tall, straight sides will help to keep the rice in the pan with all the stirring you’ll be doing. Once the onion is softened, lower the heat to medium and add the rice and bay leaf.

Beet risotto 008Cook, stirring, until the rice is lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.

Pour in the white wine. Notice my stock simmering in the pan on the back burner and my beet puree off to the side, just waiting to join the fun.

Beet risotto 010

Stir until most of it has absorbed into the rice. Add the warm stock, one ladle at a time.

Beet risotto 011

Stir frequently until the stock has been fully absorbed into the rice, and only then can you add the next ladle. You can tell when it’s ready if you scrape the pan and it takes a while for the gap to fill.

Beet risotto 013Add more stock, stir until absorbed, and repeat until the last ladle of stock, when you can add the sprig of rosemary, if using, to the pan. If you don’t like rosemary, don’t use it, but it does add a mild woody, pine flavor that goes well with the earthiness of the beets.

Continue stirring until the risotto is creamy but still firm to the bite, then add the beet puree.

Beet risotto 018

Stir it in well and watch the color transform to a beautiful reddish purple. That looks good enough to eat!

Beet risotto 019Keep stirring until the risotto is creamy and soft, with an al dente bite to it. Stir in the grated parmesan; add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the risotto on it, in about a ½” deep layer.

Beet risotto 026Allow it to cool completely. (You can cover the risotto with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until ready to use.)

For the arancini:

Place the flour, eggs and panko each in a separate bowl.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 010

Using a 2” cookie cutter (or something else small and round), cut the cooled risotto into evenly shaped rounds.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 001

Leave them in place on the parchment and press a marble-sized (½” to ¾”) piece of goat cheese in the middle of each round.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 004

Using a spatula, carefully lift up a piece and place it in the palm of one hand. Curl that hand slightly to form a bowl and use the other hand to mold the risotto into a ball, completely enclosing the cheese.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 005

Wet hands with water if the risotto starts to stick to them. Form all the balls and set aside, or refrigerate until later.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 008

Gently roll each ball in the flour, shaking off excess, then place in the eggs. I used a slotted spoon to gently shake each ball to remove the excess flour. This is Idea #1 for keeping hands less messy.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 017

Coat each floured ball with egg, shaking off excess before placing in the panko. Note that I used my left hand for this step.This is Idea #2 for keeping hands less messy.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 019 Place each egg-coated ball in the panko and toss to coat it completely and then set aside. I used my right hand for this step. This is Idea #3 for keeping hands less messy.

Continue until all balls are coated. Then wash those not-as-messy-as-they-would-have-been hands, because they are still going to be a little messy.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 019

Now comes the fun! Heat oil to 350 F to 375 F, either in a deep fryer or in saucepan. Add a few arancini at a time, leaving plenty of space between them. Don’t overcrowd…let them mingle freely.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 025

Keep turning the arancini until golden brown on all sides, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined sheet pan.

Beet and goat cheese arancini 027Allow the oil to reach 350 F to 375 F again before adding the next batch, or they will just absorb the oil and they won’t brown nicely.

These are best served hot while the cheese is still warm and melty inside.

Beet and goat cheese arancini30It wasn’t intentional that the half on the left looks like a heart, but I liked that it did, because I heart these so much!

Serve these hot with balsamic glaze (optional). To serve later, reheat in a 350 F oven until warm.

Beet and goat cheese arancini-cover

For the optional balsamic glaze:
I call this glaze “optional” because I liked the arancini both with and without it, but found it a little overpowering when I used too much of it. However, I like the idea of it, and never would have thought of it if I hadn’t seen it in the recipe I consulted.

I don’t have any good photos because I was deep frying the arancini at the same time I was making it. Keep it covered as it cools (I brought mine outside) or you may find dozens of hungry, hopeful fruit flies trapped in its sticky surface. That’s another reason there’s no photo :-). Enjoy!

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6 thoughts on “Diane’s Beet and Goat Cheese Arancini

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