When my husband bites into something he really likes, he often uses a playful term to describe it: “tastycakes.” I believe I’ve just created actual “tastycakes.” You be the judge. I’ve asked those close to me, and those of you following me to send me a challenge. What are some of the leftovers you often have lingering around your house, that you’d like to give a “Cheftovers” makeover to? My sister is this week’s challenger. The subject: leftover risotto.
We like to make a lot of risotto in my family. It’s a great side in its simplest form, and it’s a great canvas for other ingredients (often bits and pieces of excess ingredients from other dishes like asparagus, artichokes or spinach) that can help boost it up to an entree. It takes time and attention, and arborio rice is much more expensive than white or brown rice. For those reasons, it’s a shame to toss anything not eaten.
Whenever I see arancini on a menu, I can’t resist. They’re rice balls (often with a cheesy center) lightly breaded and fried, and served with a marinara…kinda like rice croquettes. I knew I wanted to go this direction. Problem is, I don’t have a fryer, which is necessary to get that even golden brown finish around the entire thing. So I decided to adjust the shape for easier execution. Just smoosh ’em down and call them risotto cakes! I also remembered a half a bag of teeny tiny shrimp I had waiting in the freezer (the kind you’d use to make shrimp salad) Now…I was cookin’!
I started on a quick marinara. I chopped up some garlic, and onion and let those sweat it out in some olive oil while I finely diced up a stalk of celery and a carrot. (for best results, you should really grate those both…but to be honest, I was feeling a bit lazy, so I decided to get past the slightly chunkier texture at the end to avoid that tedious step) I allowed the veggies to cook down and soften, making sure to season them with salt and pepper. Then I reached for the other half of a large can of crushed tomatoes I had in the fridge (from a recipe earlier in the week) as well as some tomato paste (from the same dish). I added those, and a generous dash of crushed red pepper to give it some kick. If I had fresh basil around, I would’ve used it here too. But since I didn’t, I settled for dry herbs instead. Since I was winging it, I stirred it and tasted it frequently, adding salt and water until it had the consistency and flavor I was looking for. In the end, I actually ran it through a food processor to get a smoother texture.
Then I got to work on the risotto cakes. To the leftover risotto, I added about a cup of chopped tiny shrimp, a heaping tablespoon of parsley, an egg and a little bit of breadcrumbs (until the mixture wasn’t “wet” anymore). I didn’t season them too much, as the risotto already had been upon first preparation (with s/p, shallots and garlic). I took about two tablespoons of the mixture and rolled it into a ball, then coated it in more breadcrumbs. I placed them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then smashed them down until they looked more like crab cakes than meatballs. I then froze them to prevent them from falling apart in the frying pan.
When I was ready to cook them, I just defrosted them in the refrigerator to defrost, than pan fried them, just like I would a crab cake. I warmed the marinara and served it on the side. Tastycakes, indeed.
What’s next? Give me something good to work with! I’m ready. Send pics or ideas and I’ll get cooking.