Posting has been a little off lately because of a bit of a change in my day job—it’s a good thing, though—but this past weekend I finally managed to try something I’ve been dying to do for ages: Fried rice au gratin bites. This is a variation on the classic rice au gratin recipe I learned from my mother.
Of course because I was lazy, I only baked them the first time around, and that was stupid. They really, really needed to be fried. So I pan-fried the leftovers tonight, and got a much better result.
Rice au gratin bites
- 3 cups cooked rice (from 1 cup rice, 2 cups water)
- 10 oz. Velveeta
- McCormick curry powder
- Bread crumbs (unseasoned)
- Clarified butter (ghee) or oil
Cook rice, then mix with chunks of Velveeta. Microwave to melt cheese, then stir, repeating until well combined. Place plastic wrap on a cookie sheet and spread rice mixture on top. Spread out as much as possible, then cover with a second piece of plastic wrap and smooth by hand or with a roller. Transfer to freezer for about ½ hour.
Remove from freezer and cut rice mix into squares, about 1½ inches to a side. Prepare breading station: One bowl of flour, one bowl with beaten eggs mixed with ½ tsp. curry powder per egg, and one bowl with bread crumbs mixed with a little salt. Dip each square in flour, egg mix, then crumbs, and set aside. When finished, refrigerate (or freeze, if deep frying) for at least ½ hour. Pan fry with clarified butter, or deep fry.
As I mentioned I baked these first, and it really didn’t do them justice; they didn’t crisp properly and the bread crumbs didn’t get properly toasted. Pan frying fixed all that. I tried to do some of them in panko, and found that while panko made up for some of the sins of baking, it actually was inferior in the fried version. Your mileage may vary, but for my two cents just stick with regular bread crumbs.
Pan frying in ghee meant that the bites took on a buttery flavor, which actually made it taste very close to the original recipe. Other oils like peanut might be fine, and probably better for deep frying. Just don’t wuss out and try to fry these with an oil that’s supposedly healthy but isn’t, like vegetable oil or canola. (The oils the health “experts” have been pushing for ages have lower smoke points and are more likely to develop trans fats when cooking.) Lard probably would have been nice for this, although since I love to pair rice au gratin with steak, I think tallow would be even better. I’d love to start cooking more things with tallow.
As it happens I only cooked up half the recipe, and still have a bunch of pre-cut squares in my freezer. That’s a good thing, since I can snap them apart and try this whole process again sometime, but try deep frying. I haven’t done a lot of breading and frying, so I want to get more comfortable with the technique. Even though frying isn’t an everyday thing for me and I don’t see it becoming so, it’d be nice to be able to whip up some of my favorite snacks and freeze them for whenever impulse strikes.