Rice au gratin and the quest for cheesy fried rice balls

I have a favorite recipe, something my mother has made for a long time (especially in winter) that pairs particularly well with steak. I learned to make it myself a few years ago after some experimentation. I recently had a terrific idea, but first I’ll share the base recipe:

Rice au gratin

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 10 oz. Velveeta
  • 4 slices white bread
  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter
  • 1 tsp. McCormick curry powder

Bring water to boil and add rice. Reduce heat to simmer and cover pot for 20 minutes. Cut bread into cubes. Melt butter in frying pan and add curry. Add bread to pan and stir, cooking at medium-high heat for several minutes. Cut Velveeta into small cubes and mix with rice in 1½ qt. baking or casserole dish, then top with bread pieces. Bake in preheated oven at 350° for 30 minutes, then broil for 1-2 minutes until bread is crispy. Be careful not to let the top burn.

I know cheese snobs have an issue with Velveeta. Well, I grew up with it, and I really do like it. I know it’s not “real” cheese. But trust me, you need it for this. It brings a salty meltiness to the party that makes this dish special. My wife loves this stuff, and she doesn’t like Velveeta.

Now the crazy mad science idea. I was perusing a recipe app when I stumbled onto a recipe for fried rice balls, and I thought: I could make that! This called for putting a little piece of mozzarella in the middle, not unlike what I do with chicken Parmesan meatballs, and using egg as a binder.

And then I thought: I bet I can do better with a little experimentation.

This is my highly speculative au gratin rice ball recipe:

Au gratin rice balls (experimental)

  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 10 oz. frozen Velveeta, grated
  • Eggs (2 for binder, more for breading)
  • 1 tbsp. McCormick curry powder
  • 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying

The amounts of bread crumbs and/or curry are likely to need the most adjusting. The Velveeta has to be frozen, not fully solid but enough to grate and mix.

Beat 2 eggs and mix with rice and cheese until thoroughly combined. Beat more eggs in a dish for dipping rice balls. Mix bread crumbs and curry powder in another dish. Form rice mixture into balls. Dip each ball in egg, then coat with breading mix. (Optional: Return to egg mix, then coat again.) Place on tray lined with wax paper. Transfer rice balls to refrigerator to chill. Freezing for a few hours may be preferable. Later, heat oil to 375° and fry balls until golden brown.

I don’t know how well this will work. It’s an experiment, after all. The curry will probably impact the flavor of the oil and make it no good for reuse, but that’s a small concern at best. The biggest moving parts are the amount of breading (and proportion of seasoning, which can be done to taste) required, the temperature the balls have to be before they fry, and whether near-frozen grated Velveeta will mix with rice (which can be sticky) at all. A cheese cube in the center isn’t good enough; it has to permeate the rice. I don’t even know if the egg as a binder is strictly necessary, especially if the balls are frozen when fried, but it seems like a worthy precaution.

Too bad I’m in no position to try this anytime especially soon, but I want to keep it in the back of my mind for a rainy day.

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About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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