Ray and I realized that so far all we have tried making from Grandma Angie’s recipe book have been sweets, so this week we decided to change it up a bit and try something savory. Rice croquettes seemed to fit the bill nicely. Now when I think of a rice croquette, I think of arancini. I had heard of them for years before I actually got the opportunity to try one. The one and only time I have eaten one was at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria at Epcot. It was delicious. Most recently, I watched Stanley Tucci stand on a ferry in Sicily with one the size of his fist on his television program Searching for Italy and it made me hungry. Would this recipe fulfill that yen for arancini or at least become the foundation upon which a tasty treat could be built? Let’s find out.
On first glance, this recipe appears to have much more clarity than the previous recipes we have attempted. On second glance, it isn’t crystal clear. I think the thing that threw me off was the instructions for the rice which admittedly is the most important part. “Wash and boil the rice for 30 minutes, drain and put on top of double boiler.” This isn’t anything like the way I prepare rice, but who am I to second guess? Tom thought I should make the rice as I usually do, but I don’t need to drain rice when prepared per usual. What did it mean? I felt for sure that it didn’t mean to prepare the rice as I ended up doing which was to rinse the rice, cover it with much more water that usual, and literally drain the excess water from the rice.
On the next step I hesitated again. “… put in top of double boiler. Add one egg beaten with two tablespoons of milk, salt, sugar, butter and parsley, cook until egg thickens.” I wondered if the rice shouldn’t be cooled a bit. Could the eggs hit the hot rice and make scrambled eggs? So, I cooled the rice for about 5 minutes and proceeded. I didn’t make scrambled eggs, but I am not sure I left the mixture in the double boiler long enough either because when it came time to make the croquettes, the rice mixture was much too loose. Well, there was not much else to do about it other than to soldier on and try finishing the recipe. I’ll admit that I cringed each time I tried to dip a “croquette” into a beaten egg and felt it disintegrate in my hands. Still, I was knee deep in this recipe and managed to get each one over to the bread crumbs and ready to fry. I fried the “croquettes” in batches of three or four. I think my oil was a bit too hot on the first batch, but I had some hope. For the second batch, the oil seemed to be just right and I actually produce three decent looking croquettes. By the third batch, I think my oil had possibly cooled too much, that batch was just not good. The “croquettes” had trouble keeping any form at all.
So, how did they taste? The taste wasn’t a favorite in this household. Tom had suspected that we wouldn’t care for the taste when he saw the sugar in the recipe and I’ll have to admit that he was correct. They weren’t a food that you would spit out in disgust, but they weren’t good enough to want to finish eating either.
Do they have potential? Yes I would say potential is there, but this recipe was a busy one. I even got a text from Ray during round one commenting that “This is much more labor-intensive than I bargained for!” I can’t speak for Ray, but my kitchen looked like a bomb had struck! So for round two, I plan to tweak the flavorings a bit (or maybe a lot) and plan to work smarter not harder.
So now I’ll turn it over to Ray to share his experience in this week’s From Angie’s Kitchen.
Karen and I take turns choosing which Grandma Angie recipe to make each time we do one of these posts. We did agree that we would give something savory a try, but this round was her pick. When she told me her choice I gave the recipe a quick glance and commented to her that this one looked like it was more complete than others on both the ingredient amounts and procedure. That was the end of our discussion though because as you know, we don’t discuss the details of Grandma’s recipes, how to interpret them or how we intend to approach them before we each try making them for the first time.
I still stand by my first thought that it was more complete than some of the other recipes we’ve tried. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security by that thought and dove into the recipe without thinking much about it in advance. While the directions were more detailed, there was still some guesswork and room for interpretation required and I found myself having to do a bit of thinking on my feet as I went along.
I didn’t grapple with how to prepare the rice like Karen did. Instead, I opted to prepare it in the manner that I usually do… I went to the freezer, pulled out a bag of steamfresh rice, threw it in the microwave and voila! I had the two cups of cooked rice I needed in 4 minutes. Do I feel bad about this choice? Not at all!! In Grandma Angie’s kitchen we may be cooking recipes from the 1920s, but that doesn’t mean I won’t use a modern shortcut with some of the ingredients when possible.
My grandma would have been right there with me too – she was a very modern thinker for her time. She loved her kitchen gadgets, recipes of all kinds and most definitely was a fan of the newest inventions to come along. If there had been microwaves and steamfresh rice in the 1920s, she would have been all about using them for her rice croquettes. Hell, she became such close friends with her microwave that she simply referred to it as the micro!
Rice cooking methods aside, I too wrestled a bit with the double boiler portion of the program. I also decided that waiting for the rice to cool before adding the egg was the best idea. Karen mentioned that perhaps she didn’t cook it long enough before moving on – I hung in there until it became more sticky thinking this would help me with forming them, but it took a long long time. I was at it for more than 25 minutes! It was at this point, knowing that I still had to form them, dip them in egg, roll them in breadcrumbs and fry them, that I sent Karen the text she mentioned above! In addition to the longer cooking period, I also let the rice cool a second time after it came off of the double boiler since cooler rice also tends to be a bit more sticky.
On to the forming of the croquettes. I found that the extra cooking time and second cooling did help the rice hold together fairly well and survived the dip in the egg and the breadcrumbs. I also found that I did better by forming the rice into balls first and them flattening them out after rolling them in the breadcrumbs. Finally, it was time to fry them – when I was done I surveyed the 6 golden brown croquettes on the plate with a smile.
Then I turned away from the stove and faced the rest of the kitchen and my smile was quickly erased when I saw that the same bomb that had gone off in Karen’s kitchen had also gone off in mine! Naturally the next thought that came into my head was “after almost 90 minutes of work that somehow resulted in my kitchen being replaced with a small disaster, all I have to show for it are these 6 little croquettes?!?” It also made me even happier that I saved 30 minutes of work with the microwave rice – I needed that extra time and then some to clean up!
As for the taste test, in our house we actually enjoyed them and didn’t mind the bit of sugar. There was enough to give it a pleasant sweetness without being overpowering or tasting like a piece of candy. I enjoyed them enough that rather than trying to tweak the recipe for round two, I am going to try something very different. The idea actually came to mind because of the sugar in the recipe – prior to making and tasting them, I had very different ideas on what I might do next. Admittedly, the direction I plan to head in may be a bit odd or unconventional – how will it all turn out? Check back next week!