I've been holding on to this recipe for some time. Hoarding it. Because there are simply some recipes that can't be described in words, and I'm afraid this may be one of them.
So instead of describing it, because I can't, I'll tell you how to make it. You take little cubes of smoked mozzarella, and you pack them into some cold, leftover risotto. And then you form them into little balls and fry them. And what happens, see, is that the outside gets crispy and the inside gets all melty from the cheese. And bluebirds sing and angels fly and money begins to grow on trees. And you look outside your window, and there's the boy you had a crush on in 5th grade, and he's holding up a sign that says he had a crush on you, too, back in 1980, only he was too scared to tell you because he found you too. darn. pretty. These things will happen if you make these arancini.
Recipe for Smoked Mozzarella Arancini
Adapted from Big Night In by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle, 2008)
I'm going to cheat here by asking you to make whatever kind of risotto you like. I'm not going to give you a recipe, because you can find one easily enough, and, in fact, you probably have one in your arsenal already.
Just as when you make fried rice, you need the risotto to be extremely cold for it to maintain its shape during frying, so I strongly, strongly encourage you to refrigerate the cooked risotto overnight before proceeding.
You will also need 2 or 3 eggs, smoked mozzarella cut into very small cubes (I used about 8 ounces), panko, and vegetable or olive oil. You'll also want some of your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.
Set up a breading station with separate bowls of flour, beaten egg (start with two) and panko.
Take about 2 teaspoons of the cold, cooked risotto into your palm, and press a cubed piece of cheese in the center. Form the rice into a ball, encasing the cheese completely so you can't see it. (If it's sticky, try wetting your hands.) Roll the ball first in the flour, then in the eggs (use a fork if you like), and finally in the panko. Place it on a large rimmed sheet pan, and continue with the remaining rice, cheese, and breading ingredients.
To fry: heat vegetable or olive oil to the depth of one inch in a deep frying pan. Affix a thermometer to the side, if you have one, so you can do your best to maintain a temperature of 350 degrees.
Carefully fry 6 to 8 arancini at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan, and turn for 3 or 4 minutes (or less, or more, depending on how big they are) until they're nicely browned all over. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined platter to drain. Repeat.
Serve immediately, with warm marinara sauce for dipping.
Yield will vary, depending on how much risotto you begin with.