Great, Now They’ll Never Leave


A real danger when serving party guests arancini, rice rolled with crab, lemon juice and sour cream, then fried.  One bite brings addiction and an obsession with getting more.  Just like that.

Arancini are something like hush puppies, except lighter and much more flavorful, thanks to the lemon juice and the wonderful crab distributed generously throughout.  Even more spectacular when that crabmeat is Dungeness, a variety renowned for its succulent sweetness.  Here’s the crab before it entered appetizer folklore:Dungeness Crab

The idea, or this recipe at least, came from the webpage for Silver Oak, a California vineyard.  Among the plenty available to California cooks is fresh Dungeness crab, but it’s much less available here on the East Coast.  Too bad, because Dungeness is unmatched.  …or maybe the kitchen found a way after all, as special arrangements were made.

Naturally, crab is central, though its co-ingredients each add a special twist that makes arancini so memorable.  The rice, Arborio, boils for nearly half an hour, making it tender, sprightly and ideal as a light filling.  The lemon juice and lemon zest are all the more sparkling when Meyer lemons are selected, as it’s a hybrid renowned for its mild sweetness.

Here’s everything mixed together, on a tray to chill before it’s rolled, fried and savored:Arancini BatterBefore leaving, a word about the accompaniments, sides to the side, if you will.  Arancini is best served with fresh lemon wedges, some of the same batch of Meyers that went into the recipe, and a good tomato dipping sauce.  Sure, it would’ve been easy to buy a jar of spaghetti sauce, but it’s nearly as easy, and much tastier, to introduce the right proportions of tomato purée, sautéed garlic and chopped fresh oregano.

One bit of caution, though – it’s much better to bring these to someone else’s party.  That way, when arancini-addled guests don’t disperse, it’s someone else’s problem, and you can go home.

*****

Dungeness Crab Arancini

For the arancini:

  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 4 ounces Dungeness crab, meat shelled and picked over (*1)
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche, or sour cream (*2)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (*3)
  • 1 tablespoon finely-grated lemon zest (*3)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

For the breading:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups bread crumbs, preferably panko
  • vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • lemon wedges, for serving (*3)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the rice, salt and water in a small saucepan and place the pan over a high flame.  Bring to a boil, then put the lid on the pan and transfer it to the oven.  Bake until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and stir the rice briefly.

Transfer the rice to a bowl and add the crabmeat, crème fraiche, lemon juice, lemon zest and tarragon.  Add salt to taste.

Spread mixture evenly over a rimmed baking sheet and cover tightly with plastic wrap, puncturing the wrap a few times with a fork.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.

With moistened hands, roll the rice mixture into walnut-sized balls, then place them on a clean baking tray.

Place flour, beaten eggs and panko each in its own bowl.  Drop a ball into the flour and roll it around until thoroughly coated.  Using the same hand, lift the ball and shake off excess flour, then slide the ball into the egg wash.

Using your other hand, rotate the ball until the egg coats it.  Lift the ball and let excess yolk drip back into the bowl.   Finally, place the ball into the bowl with the panko and roll it around until ball is coated.  Place the prepared ball on a clean baking sheet.

Repeat until all the arancini are prepared.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.

Pour the oil to a depth of three inches in a heavy saucepan or cast-iron skillet.  Place the pan over a high flame and heat until the oil temperature reaches 350 degrees.  After that, adjust the flame to keep the temperature at 350 degrees.

Place arancini, a few at a time, into the oil, using a wooden spoon to rotate them occasionally, thus ensuring even frying.  After about three minutes they should be evenly golden-brown and ready to leave the oil.  Remove them to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Repeat the above until all the arancini ae cooked.

Serve warm, with lemon wedges.

NOTES:

1 – This equals the meat from a medium-sized crab, maybe a little more.  If the extra goes into the arancini, good for your guests.  If it goes into your mouth, good for you.

2 – I used sour cream, as crème fraiche isn’t always available at the local market.  It wasn’t available this time, so sour cream it was.

3 – Meyer lemons are great for this, as their taste accentuates the crab without overpowering it.

*****

Quick Tomato Sauce

  • 2 cups tomato purée
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

Place a small saucepan over a medium-low flame.  When hot, place the butter in the pan.  When the butter has melted, add the garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden-brown, about two minutes.

Stir in the tomato purée and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to bubble.  Simmer thusly for two minutes.  Turn off the flame and stir in the oregano.  Salt to taste and serve.

58 thoughts on “Great, Now They’ll Never Leave

    1. Your enthusiasm is appreciated, Angela!

      Around these parts, people of Italian descent celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes around New Year. As many friends are in this group, thoughts of seafood fill the mind when the years change.

      For that reason, this likely won’t be the last time you read of shellfish in late December/early January. So plentiful are the choices, as long as I’m granted the years…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Much appreciated, Angela!

        As you know yourself from your world travels, it’s one thing to know what people do, but it’s better yet to understand why they do it. This advantage applies to food, of course, but to countless other expressions.

        Anyway, understanding the “why” helps to identify a food’s essence, its soul. Thus the experience – in preparing, in eating and in reading – is richer and is more savory.

        By the way, have you posted anything on your site since late November? Honestly, I’m not nagging you. Though I miss reading your thoughts, I just want to be sure my browser isn’t preventing me from sampling your latest.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lol! what a smart way to get me writing again. I see what you are doing there, Keith 🙂
        I hope the people you cook for appreciate how much time you put in your work, and I absolutely agree with everything you have said about cooking. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I seem to have the subtlety of a rhinoceros, huh, Angela? Still, did it work? If I’m lucky I’ll have my answer soon.

        As for cooking, thanks so much for your thoughts!

        In junior high school we had a class called “Cultures of the World,” wherein we’d explore a different country’s society and traditions every three or four weeks. My favorite lesson came at the end of each segment, when various students would volunteer to bake dishes from that country’s cuisine. I’ll remember Greece’s finale above all others, as I got to try baklava, chicken souvlaki and stuffed grape leaves. Yum!

        Ever since, the point at which culture, history and cuisine intersect always has fascinated me. Each week, a different “Cultures of the World” kitchen project!

        Liked by 2 people

      4. It’s enthusiasm, Angela. If a teacher/professor inspires passion, the lessons teach themselves.

        This is something you know quite well, as I’m sure many of your own classes resonate, particularly at the post-graduate level.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. How fortunate, Angela! Deliver, you did.

        So, how does this work? I type something, and you make it so? Now we’re talking.

        In which case, I want a million dollars. No, make it a trillion.

        I also want a pony.

        With a nod and a poof of smoke, Angela makes it happen. Just watch!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Thanks, Angela! Hold me to that, OK?

        One down, 999 to go. At fifty or so posts a year, that’ll keep me writing (and you reading) at least through 2040. Thank goodness our world’s kitchens produce enough cuisine to match.

        Like

      7. You promise, Angela?

        Well then, I was considering bowing out sometime in the early thirties, but with your encouragement, it’s onward and upward to 2040. …and beyond!

        We have to be fair about this, though. I placed my marker for 2040 and counting. Your blog will be there too, right?

        Like

  1. I just hopped over here to check the ingredients for crab cakes. And behold–arancini. I had such a sensible salad for lunch, and it just left me wanting. Actually, I might be starving. And then–the arancini. I’ll remember this, Keith. These look amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Crystal!

      The way I see it, you were good for lunch. Actually, a salad? No, you were great.

      Thus, you’ve bought more than a little indulgence for dinner. Something lightly fried (and, believe me, it wouldn’t be here if it were anything but) and subtly cheesy is a great way to get through the solstice. By the time you’re done savoring, and the warm fuzzies subside, daylight will be on the upswing once again. Or, better yet, you can take another bite.

      Shall I start preparing the rice?

      Like

      1. Okay! The rice is bubbling away of the stovetop. I would’ve been at it earlier, but I had to stop by the market first to replenish supplies of crabmeat.

        Though it’s smart to be provisioned for houseguests at any moment, some things, such as shellfish, are better fresh, than stockpiled.

        In an hour or so, you’ll agree.

        Like

      2. That isn’t among your skills? You can do many things, and why not that too?

        How is it possible to have done half the things you did if you couldn’t get from A to B with just a nod of the head? Incantation optional, but is is a classy flourish. Anyway, I just figured…

        Like

      3. If we’re discussing good food, we all win.

        Funny thing, that. The more people who take slices of pie, the bigger the pie gets. It’s a miracle, which proves, I think, God is a foodie.

        Like

      4. See? There you go, Crystal! In fact, if chili and cornbread are good enough for a Texan to notice, both must be pretty close to tops in their fields.

        As for your hubby’s and your sister-in-law’s joint effort, sounds like Death by Chocolate, comfort food version.

        You’ve described a tempting culinary progression that ought to be more than enough to blanket against any chill late December might send your way.

        Like

      5. I’m not sure how we derailed so far from your beautiful arancini, Keith. I didn’t mean to hijack your post with my chili escapades. So anyway, Merry Christmas! I am dying to know what will be on your menu that day.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Merry Christmas to you too, Crystal! Especially as I’m not likely to be online again until this weekend, at least not until it comes time to describe the latest creation.

        As for our family’s meal, it’ll be standing rib roast, courtesy of Mom. I’ll have to see what sides circumstances suggest. Unlike previous years, the house won’t be full, though, as I’ll be one of the few houseguests. Attribute this one to COVID, though fingers crossed it’ll be one-and-done!

        How about you? Any culinary delights drawn from your adventuresome past?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You flatter me, Rachel – thank you!

      How about an arancini-making party, then? I understand dumpling-folding or spring roll-wrapping parties really are a thing in East Asia. Say you face the daunting prospect of making 1,000 shrimp dumplings for a wedding. Well, have a bunch of people over for a party and three hours later…hey presto!

      Seems we could use that idea in our part of the world. “The table and counters are full of arancini…where there were none just three hours ago. Thank you…Now Get Out!”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Now there’s an idea! Though I see one wrinkle… if they’re helping, won’t that make them eligible for taste-testing status? And with the arancini’s addictive powers, exactly how many (of the arancini, not the guests) will be required eating for a “taste-test,” do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a good point, Rachel.

        We’d need to motivate them, then, to keep their mitts off the product. How about promising a “special prize” for the person who turns out the most arancini?

        Little would they know, the “special prize” will be something really lame, like a paper clip. Little matter, as we’ll have all that food, and all they’ll have is something we found on the sidewalk, like, five minutes ago.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sure, but people will fall for the paperclip ruse only a few times, though. Meaning, we’re going to have to come up with a succession of bogus “prizes.” If we play this right, though, we’ll rise on a crest of arancini!

        By the way, Rachel. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Joyous Festivus, whatever stirs your inner Frank Costanza.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Want to dazzle them completely, Rachel? Try a Rubik’s Revenge! Sixteen squares on a side (4×4) instead of nine. See, having vague, early-childhood memories of commercials gives me knowledge of such things.

        Dazzle them? Hypnotize them, more like. If you can get your hands on a Rubik’s Revenge, we’ll have a zombified army to do our arancini bidding. We’ll fill warehouses with the treats.

        No, oceans. Hope you enjoyed your salt water, stingrays, because it’s about to be replaced.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Tamara! Well, I assume Tamara wrote this, not Thor.

      Oh, if you’re looking to encourage visitors to linger, who knows what enticements your cookery will offer? You’ll keep them happy, that’s for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s quite flattering. Thanks much for your thoughtfulness, Mar!

      Crab is expensive, granted, but its succulent, sweet brininess is worth every penny. Plus, a relatively small quantity is enough to elevate the arancini to divinity. Or thereabouts.

      If you consider that pricey items like lobster, crab, short ribs and filet appear frequently here, this definitely isn’t a “budget” blog. Many ideas are intended for special occasions. For times when good ingredients well-used create memories you and your family/friends will savor for years. Come, be inspired.

      Meanwhile, I have so much fun cooking everything and planning future meals. After I publish a post, I await all of your thoughts and comments with an eagerness I haven’t felt since childhood Christmas mornings. When something turns out well, my first though is, “Oh, I can’t wait to read what they’ll think about this!”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So kind, Mar! Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

        It might surprise you to read I have entries planned all the way through late 2024. If the posts maintain your interest, and if they continue to earn comments such as yours, I’ll have all the encouragement I need to be creative.

        For that matter, you just might keep me going until 2052!

        Like

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