Mexican Arancini (an oxymoron?)

Many of you may know, but recently (like, December), I applied to be on a new Food Network show called Cooks vs. Cons.  Apparently it was professional chefs taking on amateur cooks, and the judges need to decide which one is which.  Why I wasn't chosen is simply beyond me, of course, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the fact that I can't decide (and neither could the casting people) if I am considered a professional chef or an amateur cook.  I'm not a doctor or a lawyer who has a passion for cooking - which would make me an amateur.  But I also don't work on a line and cook day-in and day-out for a living.  I'm going to chalk it up to me being a confusing candidate, because there's no way it could have been my striking personality that didn't get me a spot ;-)

Anyway, when I was interviewing, they asked the typical questions: who is my greatest cooking influence, what kind of food do you like to cook, what was it like growing up, etc.  When they asked what type of food I liked to cook, Italian was the obvious, short choice.  I know it, I love it, I live it.  However, my longer answer was that I liked to take dishes that are traditional, and turn them into something else.  Something more creative.  I am always trying to figure out ways to transform the normal.  So, that's exactly what I tried to do here.  I've got a recipe on my blog already for Italian Arancini, the traditional route with meat, parmesan, and marinara.  This Mexican-take on rice balls tastes like eating a fried taco ball.  It's got hints of taco seasoning, corn instead of peas, cheddar instead of parmesan, and green onions and cilantro for the kicker.  To finish it off, instead of using marinara for dipping, I made a cool and creamy avocado cream sauce.

This recipe makes A LOT of balls.  I can't help it, I am used to cooking for a lot of people.  You can scale it if you'd like, but, after people have one or two of these, you're going to need a lot to go around!

What You'll Need:
  • 1.5 quarts water
  • 2.5 cups Arborio rice
  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons taco seasoning, divided
  • 1/4 cup Ortega taco sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 cups panko breadcrumb, divided
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 carton liquid eggs
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried chives
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

1.  In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add rice.  Cook over medium heat for about 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until water has been absorbed.  Add water as needed if rice needs more cook time.  Remove from stove and let cool.

2.  In a skillet, cook ground beef with half taco seasoning and all taco sauce until browned.  Salt and pepper to taste.  When slightly cooled, mix in cilantro, cheese, corn, green onion, eggs, and 1 cup of panko.  Add beef and rice together and mix to incorporate well.  Let cool enough that the mixture is easy to form balls.  Roll out all balls and place on a large dish or baking sheet.  Feel free to make the balls as big or as small as you'd like.  Because I am impatient, I made them bigger to go faster!

3.  Using three different mixing bowls, set up a dredging station.  Start with the first bowl being flour, the second bowl being the liquid eggs, and the third bowl should contain the remaining panko mixed well with remaining taco seasoning, salt, pepper, chives, and onion powder.  Roll the balls in each bowl, in that order, until all breaded.

4.  Heat vegetable oil in a large pot to 350-degrees.  Drop a few balls in the oil at a time, cooking for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown and hot all the way through.  Once out of the fryer and ready to serve, I squeezed a little lime juice over the top, and sprinkled with coarse salt.  Enjoy!

Serving it with the avocado cream sauce?  Mix 4 avocados, 1/4 cup lime juice, 2 tablespoons garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, and 2 cups of sour cream in a blender until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.


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