When I let “food nostalgia” get the better of me, I am usually transported back in time to a scene where someone dear to me, such as an aunt or grandmother or close family friend, is cooking a particular dish that is their specialty. I fondly remember the person, the taste and the smell of what is being cooked or baked. This recipe for rice croquettes holds a special place among them.
Aunt Addie was a wonderful Italian cook, but my fascination with her cooking was the “American food,” as we called it then, that she prepared. At the time, I thought that she prepared meals very similar to what Donna Reed or Harriet Nelson cooked on their TV shows. It opened up a whole new world of cooking to me, even as a child. Aunt Addie loved to throw elegant dinner parties for friends and business associates of her husband. She knew that everyone wanted her traditional Italian dishes, which she often served, but she loved to surprise her guests with something a little fancier. Either my sister or I would help her serve at these dinner parties, passing her meticulously plated food from one guest to another. We both were very happy when rice croquettes were on the evening’s menu. I would eat several, in the kitchen, before even bringing them out to the guests.
As a young bride, I asked her to teach me how to make these, so that I, too could have a nice dinner party some day. I went back on a Saturday before her guests arrived, to watch (not serve this time) as she taught me her “system” for making these delectable morsels. “You have to have a system,” she said often, about so many things. She had a “system” for keeping her shopping bags in alphabetical order so you could easily grab the right one before returning an item to a store. She had a “system” for keeping napkins and tablecloths grouped appropriately together for easy access. She had a “system” for closets, drawers, etc. She was the original home organizer. I still find myself hearing her voice in my head when I’m frustrated at my lack of a system. I wish I had followed more of her suggestions. However, the one system I do follow is how to make her rice croquettes. I will share her “system” with you, as the recipe is incomplete without it, at least for me. I’m sure it’s the reason that they are so delicious, each and every time I make them.
RECIPE: makes about 2 dozen
1 cup uncooked rice or 3 cups cooked. I don’t know why, but Aunt Addie always used Carolina Rice. I’ve never used any other brand.
2 eggs, well beaten, plus 2 more eggs for frying
2/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup breadcrumbs, plain or seasoned
olive oil for frying, about 2 cups
- Put cooked, cooled rice in a large bowl. Add the 2 beaten eggs, cheese and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.
- Set up the “system.” Have a plate with the other 2 eggs, beaten and a plate of the bread crumbs next to one another, and have a large sheet pan or platter on which you will place the rolled croquettes before frying.
- Now roll a small amount of the rice mixture in your hands, packing it firmly and forming into small oblong balls.
- Gently roll in the egg to coat, and then the breadcrumbs. Place on the pan or platter.
- Set up the next part of “the system.” Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Place the ready to cook rice croquettes next to the skillet. On the other side of the skillet, have a pan or platter, lined with paper towels.
- Gently place several croquettes in the hot oil and turn gently ( she used two tablespoons to manage this), cooking them until golden brown on all sides. I’d say this takes 3 to 5 minutes.
- As you remove them, drain on the paper towels.
- Serve warm.
**NOTE: If you fry ahead of time and want to re-heat these, it is best done in a hot oven of 400 degrees for 5 minutes.
**NOTE: It was suggested to me the other evening, that these would be delicious served with a little marinara sauce on the side or for dipping. An excellent suggestion.
**NOTE: Sometimes she added a little dollop of ricotta cheese inside before shaping. Pack it in well should you try this.
**NOTE: I can’t deny that these are very similar to what we now know as “Arancini di Riso,” but to me they will always be the fanciest of fancy “Aunt Addie’s Rice Croquettes.”