*Happy, happy Valentine's Day! Hope you are making a really great dinner for (or even better, with) your sweetheart tonight.*
We were first introduced to the arancini years ago by our good friend (and frequent contributor of great food ideas) Michael Hughes. Once again, we ran into this delectable little dish at Napa Café when our buddy Rick Saviori helped us figure out the courses for our summer/farmers' market wine dinner last year. It's like a fancier cheese stick -- how could you go wrong with that? Usually fried, arancini may be just as good when it's baked, which we tried out and absolutely loved this week.
Cook, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes; stir occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't scorch. Add another cup of broth, stir, and cook another 6 to 8 minutes. Finally, add the last of the broth, stir and cook another 6 to 8 minutes or until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid. Cover and allow mixture to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment. Once cool, add one beaten egg and 1/4 cup of the panko bread crumbs. Stir to incorporate. Set up two bowls: one with the remaining egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water, and the other with the remaining cup of panko breadcrumbs. Using a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop, scoop out a portion of the rice mixture, place a cube of cheese into the middle, and then roll it into a round ball completely enclosing the cheese. Dip the ball into the egg, roll it in the panko to coat, and place onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle each ball with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with your favorite tomato sauce. (Makes 10 to 12 arancini. Serves 4.)