Here’s the scene, this past weekend: We’re at my in-laws’ for the postponed Christmas brunch. In bed, around midnight, the night before the gathering. Stephen’s eating a buttload of Little Gram’s chocolate chip cookies (made by his mom since, sadly, Little Gram passed away two years ago—her recipes ensure a measure of immortality). I’m sleeping. This, by the way, is not at all uncommon. My husband often enjoys a late night snack in bed while I snooze beside him. Sexy, right? Anyhoosie… I wake to the high-pitched sound of Stephen, panicking. A piece of his tooth has broken off, a shard from a molar with a big ol’ filling. A tooth he’s been told will require root canal at some point. Hence the panic.
Luckily there’s no pain, but the anticipation of pain makes Stephen unwilling to eat. That’s right, he skips the candied bacon. And the panettone French toast, too. Poor man. His family’s Christmas feast comes but once a year, and all he eats is a smoothie and about thirty of Little Gram’s meatballs (phew, his brother brought a batch).
Everything’s fixed now, thank goodness, but early in the week he was on an all-soft diet, so one night I made risotto. Which meant leftovers. Which meant risotto cakes! But since we’re coming off the holiday dietary madness, the idea of frying them wasn’t exactly appealing. So I applied a method I’ve seen done for latkes: I fried them for just a minute, in a scant two tablespoons of oil, then finished them in the oven. Came out perfectly crispy, I tell ya. Crispy. Using panko crumbs—and whole wheat, no less—definitely helped. Served with a little marinara for dunking, they’re just the thing for a cold winter’s night.
*Yeah, yeah, I know. Some people object to the use of the word “crispy.” I am not among them, and in fact I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that “crisp” is an equivalent. So there.
Crispy Baked Risotto Cakes
Makes about a dozen
1-1½ cups whole wheat panko crumbs
2-3 cups leftover risotto, any kind [mine was zucchini-spinach]
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 350. Place a cooling rack inside a baking sheet and set aside.
Combine panko and salt in a bowl. With your hands, form risotto into balls using a generous two tablespoons at a time, then flatten slightly. Roll each flattened ball in the panko, pressing gently, then transfer to a plate. When all are breaded, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
When oil is nearly smoking, add the cakes. Don’t crowd the pan—do this in batches if necessary, which may require a little more oil for the second round. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned, then flip and do the same on the other side. Remove to the prepared cooling rack. After you’ve got them all browned, put the tray into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown all over. Serve with marinara sauce.