Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pomegranate Rice Balls

We are going to friend's for Thanksgiving, and this is a test run in the search for the perfect appetizer to bring.  It caught my eye in Martha Stewart's December issue because of the pomegranate.  Basically, it is a ball of risotto with fontina cheese and pomegranate that is breaded and fried.  It came out well, the main problem being that the pomegranate won't stick to anything!  I lost some in the bowl forming the balls, some on the tray waiting, some in the bread crumbs, some in the egg wash, and some in the frying pan.  The ones that managed to make it onto the plate gave a nice fruity burst to the risotto.

I think this is a keeper for Thanksgiving.  My strategy for improvement next time is going to be to press in pomegranate and cheese into a tray of the risotto while it cools.  Then I can slice it into squares once it is cold and hopefully lock the pomegranate in place.  It will also fry faster in a square than in a ball shape (which is meant for deep frying).

The squares worked out really well... I could have packed more pomegranate in than I did.  The whole process was much neater, faster, and more even.  I also upped the flavor in the risotto by using a little chicken broth instead of plain water.  Here's the revised recipe, let me know how it works out.

Pomegranate Fontina Rice Squares
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living December 2009
Makes about 32 largish squares

Plenty of vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
3 chicken bouillon cubes
4 oz grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz diced fontina cheese
1 pomegranate, seeded
4 cups fine breadcrumbs
4 eggs, beaten with a little water

1.  Use a large heavy bottom saucepan for the rice.  First heat 2 Tbsp veg oil over medium heat and cook the onions until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add the rice and stir, toasting for 3 minutes.  Add wine.  Raise heat to med-high and cook until wine has reduced by half, 3 minutes.

2. Add 2 cups water and rosemary sprigs.  Throw in one of the bouillon cubes.  Stir and cook, paying close attention to the rice.  Let the rice absorb the water, then add two more cups and a bouillon cube.  Martha says about 6 cups, but really you have to keep tasting it to get it the way you want.  It should look creamy and cheesy even before you add the cheese.  Risotto is supposed to be "toothsome" but nit have a hard center.  I still haven't quite figured it out, but you should know it when you taste it.

3. Add Parmesan and butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Line a rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and pour out the mixture onto the sheet.  It should be thick.  Spread it into an even layer about 3/4" thick.  Let it cool a little bit on the counter.  Then grab your pomegranate and cubed fontina and pour it out over the rice.  Press the seeds and cheese into the rice as best you can and smooth over the top when you are done.  You really want as much pomegranate as you can cram in without it looking like it will fall apart.  Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

4. Prep your frying area.  Get the bread crumbs and egg wash set up.  Put a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of veg oil in a  pan and heat over medium high heat.    Take the rice out of the fridge and slice into squares.  Dredge in bread crumbs, then egg, then bread crumbs again, and put in the frying pan.  Give it about 2 minutes a side or until nicely golden brown.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate, then to a serving tray.  Sprinkle a little coarse salt on top and maybe some parsley or whatever you have for color.

These are tasty, but also quite filling.  Sorry there's no picture of the square version, but they were looking snazzy at Thanksgiving neatly tiled in a rectangular silver tray.  Enjoy!

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