Hatch Chile Obsessed: Hatch Chile Arancini

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MIS82814-144Every month or so, the Austin Food Bloggers get together for a potluck. I love catching up with the other bloggers and tasting their creations, but I get a little freaked out about what to make. After all, these people can cook. Oh the pressure.

This month, our potluck had a Hatch Chile theme and I immediately thought of risotto, but couldn’t figure out how to make and transport it without it becoming gummy; this simply would not do. Then, I went to the Hatch Chile Fest at Central Market and they had risotto cakes.

Genius, but I wanted to do something a little different (couldn’t have the bloggers think I bought my dish at Central Market after all). A friend suggested arancini, fried risotto balls with a cheese filling.

I decided on a Hatch chile risotto with a Hatch chile cheese filling. Central Market has a great Hatch chile jack cheese that would provide the perfect amount of heat and melt beautifully; a gooey center being key to good arancini.

Now, I know Hatch Chiles aren’t locally grown, but you can buy them at local farmers markets for the next few weeks. I consider them a rare and special treat to be enjoyed while available. If you are a true locavore, you might take issue with this and could substitute with another type of pepper. You could also substitute the cheese with a more traditional mozzarella or fontina cheese.

I had never made arancini before and found the process to be easier than I thought, if somewhat time intensive as there are several stages to be carried out. I roasted and peeled peppers on Friday evening, made the risotto on Saturday and assembled and fried the arancini on Sunday. You could pull it all off in one day, but you would need to start early.

Despite being fried, the arancini came out light with a deliciously melted cheesy center. The Hatch chiles added great flavor, but I used mild chiles so there was not much heat. Had I been making the dish to serve at home, I probably would have used hot chiles or a combination of the two in the risotto as I like a little heat in my food.

Hatch Chile Arancini
6 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken)
3 tbsps butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 3/4 cup arborio rice
about 12 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled and diced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
4 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp minced fresh chives and flat-leaf parsley (could also use oregano or basil)
1 large egg yolk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 oz Hatch Chile jack cheese (could also use mozzarella or Fontina cheese)
2 large eggs whisked
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

To roast and peel the peppers:

Place hatch chiles under broiler or on the grill until they begin to blacken on one side. Turn the chiles until blackened on the other side. Remove the chiles and place in a plastic bag (I use a plastic shopping bag). Tie the top and let the chiles “sweat” in the bag.

Once the chiles are cool enough to handle, remove the tops, seeds and peel the chiles. If you have sensitive skin or wear contact lenses, you might consider wearing gloves to do this. Try to remove the seeds without rinsing the chiles as rinsing will remove the oils that give it flavor.

To make the risotto:

Heat the broth in a pot and leave on simmer while you make the risotto.

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Add the risotto until it is well-coated. Add the chiles and stir well into the risotto.

Scoop a cup of the broth into the risotto and stir until it is absorbed. Continue to add the broth about 1/2-3/4 cup at a time to the broth, stirring each time until it is absorbed. You want the risotto to have a creamy, but not soupy texture.

Remove the risotto from the heat and allow to cool. Place in the refrigerator to cool thoroughly for at least 3 hours.

To make the arancini:

In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, cream, herbs, and egg yolk and stir until combined. Add the mixture to the risotto and season with salt and pepper.

Cut the cheese into small cubes. Scoop up a small handful of the risotto mixture, place a cube of cheese in the center and shape to to make a croquette. Repeat to form the other croquettes.

Place the croquettes on a cookie sheet covered in parchment or wax paper.

Place the egg wash and bread crumbs in separate wide-mouthed bowls. Dip the arancini in the egg wash then roll it in the bread crumbs.

Chill the arancini in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.Fill a tall pot or fryer with vegetable or canola oil so that it will cover the arancini; about 4-5 inches. (I used my stock pot and it worked great). Heat the oil over medium-high heat; you want it to register 375°F on a thermometer.

Deep-fry the arancini in small batches until they are evenly browned or 3-5 minutes. Don’t add to many arancini to the pot at once or they will crowd and stick. Also, allow a few minutes in between batches for the oil to come back up to temperature so the arancini don’t become soggy.

Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly. Serve hot.

For the potluck, I had to let the arancini sit to travel so I reheated at 425 degrees for 6-7 minutes to warm them through.

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