Arancini–Fried Rice Balls


Arancini with spicy tomato sauce for dipping

There are so many ways to make fried rice balls. You can make suppli al telefono which are smaller and have tomato sauce mixed in, or you can make arancini which tend to be made bigger and with saffron flavored risotto. You can make risotto from scratch. You could make risotto from a box. Or you could take the unconventional approach below.

It all started when I was stuck indoors because of blizzard Jonas. I had nowhere to go and had to use the ingredients that I had at home. I was craving suppli al telefono from my favorite pizza joint, but we couldn’t get there because: #1 the pizza place was closed, #2 even if it had been open we could not get out because it was snowing and the roads where unplowed.

I opened the refrigerator and stared at a big bowl of leftover sushi rice that I had made the night before to serve with roasted chicken. I decided that I would turn that mound of rice into fried rice balls. These are closer to arancini, than suppli because they are bigger and have saffron.

Yes, there are many steps, but everything is fairly simple. And I promise it is worth it in the end.

For the rice

Here is a quick hack to make the “risotto,” and what I used for this recipe. I had a lot of leftover Calrose sushi rice, which is  similar to arborio, that I had cooked in chicken broth and wine for another meal. Any sushi rice will work here.

  • 2 cups Calrose or sushi rice
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine (or you can use chicken broth)
  • a few strands of saffron, if you have some handy (you can leave it out, it will still be delicious)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  1. Rinse the rice in cold water, until the water runs clear. This will take several rinses. Make sure to rinse it well, otherwise it will be too sticky.
  2. Place the rice, the chicken broth, safffron—if using, and the salt in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover and lower the heat to medium low. Cook for 20 minutes. After twenty minutes, turn off the heat, and let it stand covered for 10 minutes.
  3. If you are using it immediately for the risotto balls: measure out the two cups that you will need, spread the two cups of rice on a tray or a dish, and place in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes until it is completely cooled.

For the spicy tomato sauce

  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Pour the tomatoes into a blender, and blend until smooth.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté for about one minute. Add the fire roasted tomatoes, the cayenne, the sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use. You can make this ahead, refrigerate it, and re-heat when ready to use.

For the rice balls

  • 2 cups leftover risotto or rice from recipe above, cooled
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten

1. Combine all the ingredients.

For the filing

  • 1/2 cup cooked chicken, finely minced (You could also use cooked ground beef or pork)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons spicy tomato sauce
  • 2 mozzarella sticks, cut into one inch pieces. You will need 10 pieces.
  1. Mix the first four ingredients, and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the coating

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

For Frying
Canola, sunflower, or other frying oil of your choice


Arancini before frying


To form the arancini:

  1. Set out three shallow plates: one for the flour, one for the egg, and one for the breadcrumbs.
  2. With the rice mixture, form 10 rice balls. They should be about the size of a golf ball. Take one rice ball, and flatten it on the palm of your hand, add a bit of the filling and one piece of mozzarella cheese. Wrap the rice around the filling, lightly roll in your hand to make a round ball. Form 9 more rice balls.
  3. Roll each rice ball in flour, then in egg, and finally in breadcrumbs. Be careful when rolling the balls in the egg, you want as little egg as possible to cling to the rice ball, let any extra egg drip off before rolling in the breadcrumbs. Set aside, and finish the other 9. At this point you can refrigerate them for up to 30 minutes.
  4. Heat oil in a medium pot, or a straight sided skillet. You want the oil to be about 1-1.5 inches deep so that at least half of the rice ball is immersed in the oil while frying. The oil should be at around 350 degrees. Fry the rice balls in batches, turning frequently so that they brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with the spicy tomato sauce. Garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Arancini dipped in spicy tomato sauce.

Note: You could freeze the arancini on a cookie sheet after step 3, transfer them to a zip top bag once they are frozen, and fry them when you want to serve them. If the rice balls are too big, the cheese inside might not melt with just frying. In which case you can just place them in a 350 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes to ensure that the cheese has melted inside.

Destination Oaxaca Menu at El Centro DF


El Centro DF

El Centro DF Destination Oaxaca Menu


I love Mexican food and I really enjoy trying different types of mole. The Destination Oaxaca menu at Richard Sandoval’s El Centro DF showcases mole, and it includes two of my favorite Mexican dishes: guacamole and tacos.

Richard Sandoval (of Masa 14, Zengo, and Toro Toro) and his corporate chefs travel to new destinations twice a year to research the culinary heritage of a region and they bring back the story and the experience of that region to his restaurants.

Guacamole is a must to start a Mexican meal for me. The one at El Centro is made table side and customized to your liking. The Georgetown location of El Centro is close to where I work, and I love going there on Fridays after work to enjoy some guacamole and a margarita or mojito.

El Centro DF Guacamole


Other appetizers featured in the Oaxaca menu include an amazing shrimp ceviche in a delicious citrus habanero broth–it’s light and only slightly spicy with chunks of guacamole on top, and the crispy potatoes and chorizo that were fantastic.

El Centro DF Shrimp Ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche


El Centro DF Crispy Potatoes and Chorizo

Crispy Potatoes and Chorizo

The menu features two gems from Oaxaca: mezcal and mole. The mezcal is  is an ingredient in both featured cocktails, and in two of the featured main dishes. All three main dishes feature mole. The smoked pork tenderloin is served with a pumpkin mole poblano, the braised short ribs are served with a mezcal mole, and the shrimp tamal is sprinkled with dehydrated mole. The shrimp tamal was one of my favorite dishes. The masa is made of creamy sweet corn, topped with garlicky grilled shrimp, and sprinkled with cotija cheese. The charred pork belly tacos with pipian sauce and pickled vegetables were also outstanding.

Check out photos of these dishes below.

El Centro DF is a great spot for happy hour, and perfect to enjoy a comforting meal that will satisfy your Mexican food craving.

El Centro DF Smoked Pork Tenderloin and Pumpkin Mole

Smoked Pork Tenderloin and Pumpkin Mole

El Centro DF Braised Short Ribs in Mezcal Mole

Braised Short Ribs in Mezcal Mole

El Centro DF Shrimp Tamal

Shrimp Tamal

El Centro DF Pipian Pork Belly Tacos

Pipian Pork Belly Tacos


El Centro DF has two locations:

El Centro DF 14th Street: 1819 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009

El Centro DF Georgetown: 1218 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007

Disclosure: I was invited to sample the new Destination Oaxaca menu at El Centro DF. I was not compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

Winter Tea at the Park Hyatt’s Tea Cellar in Washington, DC

The Tea Cellar at the Park Hyatt Savory Bites

Savory Bites at the Tea Cellar

One of my favorite restaurants in DC is Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt Washington. The Blue Duck Tavern is also the location of the Tea Cellar, where you can enjoy more than 50 rare and limited-production, single-estate teas from remote regions such as China, Japan, Sri Lanka and the Himalayas.

The Tea Cellar at the Park Hyatt Tea

The Tea Cellar hosts the Tea Table every Saturday and Sunday from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. Savory bites, pastries, scones and jams are served buffet style. Teas are selected from the Tea Cellar’s extensive tea menu. Tea Specialist Christian Eck is available to assist guests with their tea selections.

The Tea Cellar at the Park Hyatt at the table

I had the opportunity to attend a tasting featuring the winter menu for the Tea Table. Savory selections included main lobster BLT on brioche, chicken salad in cabbage wrap, deviled eggs, and oysters on the half shell with celery relish. Sweet treats included fruit scones, assorted macarons, berry tarts, Nutella eclairs, opera cake, and chocolate carmel tarts. Every bite was decadent and luxurious. My very favorite thing was the Nutella eclairs. The filling was rich and the choux pastry was light as air.

The Tea Cellar at the Park Hyatt Sweet Bites

Sweet Bites at the Tea Cellar

For the teas, I had the chance to taste Chinese  Freak of Nature oolong, a Mallorca melon tisane, Gyorkuro Japanese green tea, and 1999 Vintage Pu-erh. You can see the tea menu here.

The Tea Cellar at the Park Hyatt Green Tea
The Tea Table is priced at $45 per adult and $20 per child between six and twelve years of age (tax and gratuity not included).  Tea is ordered by the freshly brewed pot and ranges from $8 to $300. The Park Hyatt is located at 1201 24th Street, NW, Washington, D.C., USA, 20037.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend a preview of the Winter Tea menu at The Tea Cellar. I was not compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

Pear-Vanilla Fizz Cocktail

I love the holiday season. There are Christmas decorations, treats, getting together with friends and family, colder weather (not happening this year!), and cocktails! This is my new favorite cocktail. It is slightly sweet, fizzy, and it feels celebratory. It is not as strong as my usual fall/winter cocktail (a Calvados sidecar), so that means that I can have more than one, and then have wine with dinner without getting too tipsy. I made it for Thanksgiving and will be making it again for Christmas.

I tried this cocktail with many different pear ciders. For the most part, I liked the pear ciders from Normandy the most. They have great fragrance and flavor and are perfect in this cocktail. Bordelet, which I discovered at Momofuku CCDC (seriously, order it next time you are there), and Etienne Dupont are both fantastic. One of the American ciders that stood out from all the ones I tasted was Doc’s Draft. And a word of caution, although widely available, I really did not like the Ace’s Pear Cider, it tastes synthetic. For the brandy, you can get one of the classic French ones, or you can try Clear Creek Distillery’s pear brandy from Oregon.



Pear-Vanilla Fizz

Adapted from this NY Times recipe.

Ingredients for Cocktail:

  • 1 ½ ounces Poire William
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce pear-vanilla simple syrup
  • Dry Pear Cider

For the pear-vanilla syrup:

  • 1 small ripe pear, diced
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  1. Make the simple syrup. In a small sauce pan, combine the pear, vanilla bean, sugar, and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat, let cool, and strain. Refrigerate in a glass container.
  2. For each drink, combine all ingredients for the cocktail in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a champagne flute, and top with Pear Cider. To make drinks for a crowd, mix the base (Poire William, lemon juice, and simple syrup) for the number of people who you will be serving, place in a glass carafe, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Once you are ready to serve the cocktails, just pour into the glasses, and top with the pear cider. The base will be cold, so you won’t have to shake it in the cocktail shaker prior to serving.