Tuesday July 03, 2012 | 11:47 AM
Perhaps you classify yourself as a cook. Maybe even a good cook. Or maybe you're someone whose kitchen talents are limited to knowing the precise amount of time it takes to nuke a hot dog in the microwave so it's hot but not so hot that it splits open like a lightning-struck log.

Whatever your culinary classification, I think we can all agree on one thing: Anything breaded and fried is good.

Whether it's shrimp or avocado or yesterday's ham, simply dip it in some panko and fry it in a pan.

Panko pretties up your pork and turns a pickle chip into something more than throw pillow for your plate.

Point in case: Panko-Fried Chive Risotto Cakes

I mean, I already love me some risotto. But when you take something you love and you blanket it in tenderly toasted bread crumbs and lay it oh-so-gently into a soothing(ish) bath of hot oil...well, it only makes your love stronger. For you know what they say, "Panko makes the heart grow fonder."

PANKO-FRIED CHIVE RISOTTO CAKES

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup panko bread flakes



Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the rice. Lower heat to med-low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. While that's happening, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, fontina, one teaspoon of salt and the pepper.



When the rice is cooked (it'll be soft) rinse it under cold water and strain it well.



Add the cold rice to the whisked-up ingredients and stir so the rice gets evenly coated and no grain of Arborio can complain about not getting enough attention from the fontina or the yogurt.



Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least two hours or until firm (if only refrigeration firmed up other things, am I right?). Scoop a portion of risotto blend with a spoon or your hands, roll it into a ball in your hands and then throw it against the wall.

Just kidding about the wall part. Instead, press it flat with your hands. I found erring toward smaller cakes rather than larger ones made for improved crisping and less "oh crap, the risotto cake is breaking apart like Pangaea" while cooking.



Press the risotto patties onto the panko, flip, coat the other side. Then fry those pankoed puppies up in a pan of hot oil (over medium-high heat) approx. 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Let sit on a paper towel, same way you treat bacon, while you fry another batch. Eat some. Fry some more. Eat.



I also used the extra yogurt to make a dipping sauce by blending together a cup of yogurt, a handful of parsley, garlic, juice from half a lemon and some fontina cheese in food processor. I'd show you a picture of it, but we ate it all very fast. It wasn't until there was one cake standing that it occurred to me to take a photo of the finished risotto cakes.

But I think we both know, they were amazing-looking. And a amazing-tasting.

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