Michael Symon's Secret For Perfect Arancini

Celebrity chef Michael Symon grew up in a family of Greek, Italian, and Eastern European heritage, so the Cleveland native is no stranger to the flavors of the Mediterranean. According to the Culinary Institute of America, Symon's family and their connection to food played an important role in his formative years, but it wasn't until a high school accident put the kibosh on his wrestling aspirations that he began to consider a culinary career. Fast forward a few decades, and Symon is one of the world's best-known chefs.

The James Beard award-winning chef and one-time co-host of ABC's "The Chew" currently owns a number of highly acclaimed restaurants, including Angeline at The Borgata in Atlantic City. Named after his mother, the venue is an "ode to Italian food," in particular, dishes inspired by Symon's Sicilian roots.

Few foods are more Sicilian than arancini, so it's no wonder the fried, stuffed rice balls are front and center on Angeline's menu. According to Italy Magazine, arancini's origins on the Italian island could date back to between the 9th and 11th century and may originally have been a local take on a rice- and lamb-based Arab dish. More common Sicilian fillings include mozzarella, prosciutto, and eggplant.

The Symon method

Arancini may sound simple to make, but the mozzarella-filled rice balls are made with fully cooked risotto, which means, of course, that you have to make risotto, an extremely precise process, before you can make arancini. Symon's method, though, offers a bit of a shortcut, or at least a two-fer. According to Food & Wine, Symon makes the risotto a day before he shapes the arancini. This means it's possible to cook up enough risotto to serve as a meal, with plenty of leftovers for arancini the next day. It's a trick Symon learned from his mother and grandmother. 

"When my mother or my grandmother made risotto, they always made about twice as much as they needed. That way the next day we could have arancini," Symon said, while demonstrating his technique for the Food & Wine Test Kitchen. In addition to the time you'll save, cooking the risotto a day (or two) before means all that delicious flavor really gets locked in. 

In the video, Symon uses a risotto made with ham, shallot, white wine, and Parmesan. But while he makes the risotto ahead of time, he waits until just before frying to coat the arancini with breadcrumbs. This ensures the perfect crunchy bite.

And in case you're wondering what beverage to serve with the ham-flavored arancini, Symon also shared a cocktail recipe — a blend of peach iced tea, bourbon, bitters, and sparkling orange soda. As he noted, "Everybody knows that peaches and ham are a combination made in heaven."