Lemony Risotto Croquettes with Slivered Snow Peas, Asparagus, and Leeks

I love risotto, but not as a main dish, unless something has been done to it to give it form. Here, a lemony risotto is formed into ovals, then shallow-fried until golden and crisp and served over a bed of finely slivered spring vegetables. These croquettes make a lovely supper dish for company and can be made vegan if no butter and eggs are used, although the egg does help bind the rice.
 
The vegetables needn't be these amounts. Work with what you have and what pleases you, just as long as everything is thinly sliced. Certainly include fresh English peas or fava beans if you can.
 
This rice isn't cooked with incremental additions of stock as it is for risotto, but in water and all at once. However, there's no reason not to use leftover risotto for croquettes and fritters. I can easily imagine red wine risotto croquettes with sautéed mushrooms, a summer squash risotto with a tomato concassé, and so forth. A croquette does not, in the end, make a heavy dish; so I'd start this spring meal with a creamy mushroom soup in contrast to the texture of the vegetables, add a salad of spring greens and herbs, and end with a rhubarb tart for dessert. A crisp, unoaked Arneis from the Piedmont, such as the Giacosa Arneis, would echo the citrus notes and encompass the vegetables.
 
Note: The rice has to be cool before you can form it. While it's cooling, sliver the vegetables or prepare another part of the meal. You can keep the finished croquettes in a warm oven while you sauté the vegetables, but they take less than 5 minutes to cook.

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 bunches of scallions, including a few inches of the greens, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups risotto rice, such as Arborio
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or basil
  • 1 ball (1/4 pound) fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups bread crumbs
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 fat leeks, white parts only, halved, cut into 2-inch pieces, and finely slivered
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, peeled if thick, then slivered, including the tips
  • 2 big handfuls of snow peas, thinly slivered
  • 2 handfuls of edible-pod peas, slivered
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced parsley, basil, or chervil
Instructions
 
1. Bring 1 quart water to a simmer in a 3-quart pan with a tight-fitting lid. Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add the scallions. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute, then add the rice, turn to coat it with the butter, and cook for a minute or two. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the rice to the simmering water. Cover and cook over low heat for 16 minutes. Remove the lid, and if there's still water present, cook it off. Otherwise, stir in the lemon zest, parsley, pepper, and cheeses, then allow the rice to cool in the pan. Stir in one of the eggs.
 
2. Using a 1/3-cup measure, scoop out the rice and shape it to make an oval croquette.
 
3. Whisk the remaining eggs in a pie pan. Put the breadcrumbs on another pie pan or plate. Using your left hand, dip each croquette into the egg mixture, then, using your right hand, gently roll it in the crumbs to coat. Set it aside on a tray covered with wax paper until all are made. (These can be refrigerated hours ahead of time, then brought back to room temperature before frying.)
 
4. When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 300°F if you're planning to hold them. Generously coat 2 wide skillets with olive oil. When hot, add the croquettes and cook over medium heat, gently turning them to brown them all over, 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer them to a plate and set in the oven while you sauté the vegetables.
 
5. Heat half the butter until foaming in a wide sauté pan. Add all the slivered vegetables, sprinkle them with sea salt, and sauté over high heat for about 11/2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and remaining butter, shuffling the pan over the heat so that they combine into a sauce. Add the herbs.
 
6. To serve, divide the vegetables among warm plates, then arrange the fritters attractively on top, allowing 3 per serving.
Yield: 
Serves 4 to 6 (about 18 fritters)
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