It is an interesting practice, getting to know one’s parents as adults. Seemingly innocuous acts become windows into these people, who whether we like it or not, we are often incredibly similar to ourselves.
I possess many traits akin to my father, some good, some bad, and many teetering on the fine line in between. Ambition balances impatience, confidence steadies ego, and hard work fights to find an equilibrium with making time for those people and things that matter most. All of this is buoyed by an incredible joy of life, a passion for all, a jump-up-and-down, sing-it-from-the-rooftops, spin-until-you-fall-down, grab-life-by-the-balls enthusiasm that people tend to either love or hate us for.
So when my father excitedly suggested we show up early for our cooking class at Eurostoves to, “Make sure we get the best assignment…I mean the best table…I mean the best recipe!”, I felt my own anticipation (teetering, as always, with anxiety), begin to rise.
Tucked amidst a nondescript stripmall in Beverly, MA, a town that many of heard of, but can’t quite remember why, is Eurostoves, a “culinary dreamland” comprised of part store, part cooking center.
We were there for The Italian Christmas Party class, and were cheerfully greeted by the instructor Ned, who instantly warmed my Seattle-snobbified heart with his Boston accent and demeanor that could have cast him directly into the set of Good Will Hunting. Casually directed to pick a recipe (my Dad and I bullied our way to the Pork and the Tuscan Pizzas) for the next three hours we chopped and minced, diced and sautéed, as the instructors nonchalantly offered suggestions for how to improve the dishes and really bring them to life.
After 2+ hours of cooking, we and the other seven folks in the class (consisting of a San Diego daughter home visiting her parents, a gal who I’d been a few years ahead of at high school with her mother and mother-in-law, and a newly engaged nurse) sat down for an unexpected but utterly delightful dinner party amongst strangers turned friends over the simple act of food.
The meal was spectacular. Each bite better than the one before, we congratulated each other on our culinary masterpiece, regaling stories of how the bolognese was made or the bechamel created.
The arancini rice balls, made by the Mom, Dad, and Daughter whose comfortableness and affection with each other I couldn’t help noticing were especially delicious. Admittedly, these are a bit of work, but for that special holiday dinner, be it with family, friends, or stangers, they may be just the ticket.
Arancini (Rice Balls)
Recipe compliments of Eurostoves, whose Christmas classes just became my new favorite tradition of the Holidays.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, very finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely shopped
- 8 ounces ground beef
- 1 ½ cups chopped canned Italian peeled tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 5 cups chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- 2 cups (1 pound) medium-grain rice, such as Arborio
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- 4 large egg yolks
- 5 large egg whites
- 2 cups plain bread crumbs
- Flour for dredging
- 4 ounces sharp provolone, cut into small dice
- Vegetable oil for deep-frying
- To make the filling, put the oil, onion, and garlic in a medium skillet, turn on the heat to medium, and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the beef to the skillet and cook, stirring to break up the lumps, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes.
- Add the peas and cook 5 minutes more. Let cool.
- To make the rice, bring the broth and saffron to a boil in a large pot. Stir in the rice, butter, and salt to taste. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender, about 18 minutes.
- Remove the rice from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Let cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks.
- To assemble, beat the egg whites in a shallow bowl until foamy. Spread the bread crumbs on one sheet of wax paper and flour on another. Place a cake rack over a baking sheet.
- Dip your hands in cool water, to prevent the rice from sticking. Scoop up about 1/3 cup of the rice mixture and place it in the palm of one had. Poke a shallow hole in the center of the rice. Press about 1 tablespoon of the filling into the hole and top it with a piece of provolone. Cup your hand slightly, molding the rice over the filling to enclose it completely. Add a little more rice if necessary to cover the filling completely. Very gently squeeze the ball together to compact the rice.
- Carefully roll the rice ball in the flour, then in the egg whites to coat it completely. Roll the ball in the bread crumbs, being sure not to leave any spots uncovered. Place the rice ball on the cake rack to dry. Continue making rice balls with the remaining ingredients, rinsing your hands between each. When all of the rice balls have been made, place the rack in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to dry.
- Pour about 3 inches of oil into an electric deep-fryer or a deep heavy saucepan. Heat the oil until the temperature reaches 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer, or a drop of egg white sizzles when it is added to the oil. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, lower a few rice balls at a time into the hot oil; do not crowd the pan. Cook until golden brown and crisp all over, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the rice balls to paper towels to drain. Keep the cooked rice balls warm in a low oven while you fry the remainder. Serve hot or warm.
Recipe taken from The Soprano Family Cookbook