Frittelle di Riso Corrado Costanza

Corrado Costanza’s Rice Fritters

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    24 to 30

    fritters

Appears in

Many pastry shops in Sicily excel in one or another specialty. Others manage to prepare outstanding examples of several types of the pastry chef’s art and perhaps are known for good ices and beautiful miniature pastries. Only Corrado Costanza of Noto, near Siracusa, can boast a pastry shop that excels in all branches of traditional Sicilian sweets. His expertise runs the gamut of flower-scented ices, beautifully decorated cassate, confections molded in the shape of religious subjects, and his favorite pursuit, recreations of ancient pastries from the many convents and monasteries that flourished in Noto up to the time of World War I.

Noto itself has a dreamlike quality. The old city was destroyed during an earthquake at the end of the seventeenth century, and early in the eighteenth century it was rebuilt on its present site entirely in Sicilian High Baroque style. The churches, monasteries, and palaces vie with each other in splendor, and though many have seen better days, they now have a slightly dusty quality that tempers their exaggerated grandeur.

I last visited Noto and Signore Costanza with my friends Miriam and Lester Brickman, and we arrived at his pastry shop on a Sunday morning just as he was about to begin frying a batch of these frittelle. I was surprised to find that the rice had been cooked in chicken broth while the fritters were sprinkled with honey, sugar, and cinnamon. The combination of the meaty saltiness of the rice in the crisp fritter and the sticky sweetness of the honey transformed several ordinary flavors into an ethereally delicious whole.

One important note about serving the frittelle: they cannot wait and must be eaten immediately after being fried, drained, and sweetened. Prepare them for a very informal or family occasion, when you can easily spend twenty minutes in the kitchen for the frying.

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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup arborio or other rice and 1 cup chicken stock or salted water; or 1 cup cooked rice

    Batter

  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast or ounce compressed yeast
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • quarts light or pure olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying
  • Honey, granulated sugar, and ground cinnamon for finishing

Method

To cook the rice, bring the stock or salted water to a boil in a small pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the rice, stir once with a fork, cover the pan, and cook the rice over the lowest heat for about 15 minutes, checking to make sure that the liquid has not evaporated and the rice is not sticking. If necessary, add several tablespoons of boiling water to the rice if it is dry but still not cooked. When the rice is cooked it should be fairly soft. Spread the rice out on a plate to cool.

For the batter, heat the milk or water to lukewarm, about 105 degrees, pour into a bowl, and whisk in the yeast. Add the flour, sugar, and salt, stirring gently to avoid making the batter elastic. Stir in the rice and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to ferment until foamy, about 30 minutes.

Over medium heat, heat the oil to 375 degrees in a 2½- to 3-quart pan. Place one-third of the batter on a straight-edged piece of cake cardboard or cutting board and use a thin knife to shape the batter (it will be very soft and sticky) into a rectangle approximately 3 × 5 inches. Position the knife ½ inch behind the 3-inch side closest to the edge of the board. Scrape a 3 × ½-inch section of the batter into the oil, as in the illustration. Continue with the rest of the batter on the board, scraping the frittelle in quickly and, to avoid burns, making sure they do not splash into the oil. You will have to continually readjust the shape of the batter on the board so that it is 3 inches wide at the edge closest to the pan by pushing inward from the 2 perpendicular sides with the knife.

Once the frittelle are in the oil, stir them gently with a slotted spoon, making sure that they color evenly. Remove to a pan lined with paper towels to drain for a few minutes. Arrange the first frittelle on a plate and drizzle with the honey. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Serve-immediately. Repeat the process with the other two-thirds of the batter, serving each batch as soon as it is fried, drained, and garnished.

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