Mary Wilson and I first met Joey Fatone at the famed Barnstable Brown Gala in Louisville, Kentucky. The annual party, is held at the lovely family home of the beautiful and gracious twin sisters Patricia and Priscilla Barnstable is part of the famed Kentucky Derby weekend. It raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research, and draws a fascinating Who’s Who of the show business world. One of the most fun celebrities we have encountered there is Joey. He is always upbeat, warm, and friendly. This year, while Joey and I were both in line to place bets at Churchill Downs race track we started talking about food, recipes, and his TV cooking shows. When I told him that I really wanted to get an entry from him for my food blog and forthcoming cook book, he said, “I have to send you my recipe for my Rice Balls.” When I received the instructions from Joey with the note: “Hi Mark. See the recipe below… Enjoy!”—I couldn’t wait to try it! As you can see from the photo, they came out perfectly just like Joey said they would. These are ideal as a side course to an Italian meal, or for a party or buffet table. They can be eaten alone, or dipped in Marinara Sauce. The other great thing I found is that they will keep fully cooked in the refrigerator in a zippered storage bag for up to two days, and are easy to reheat by placing them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. To quote the talented Mr. Fatone: “Enjoy!”
Makes 24 Rice Balls
To Make the Rice:
—2 cups Water
—1 cup of uncooked White Rice
—1 teaspoon of Salt
To Mix With The Cooked Rice:
—1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
—1 tablespoon dried Parsley
—1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground Black Pepper
—1 1/2 cups dried Bread Crumbs
—2 cups Olive Oil
In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cheese, parsley, pepper, and one teaspoon salt. Cover and refrigerate.
Pour water and one teaspoon salt into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir
in the rice, cover, and reduce heat to the lowest temperature. Cook rice until water is almost absorbed, stirring frequently.
NOTE: I found that cooking the rice for 20 minutes at the lowest temperature, worked perfectly.
Remove from heat and slowly pour in egg mixture, stirring rapidly to prevent egg from scrambling. Allow rice mixture to cool for one hour.
Pour bread crumbs into a pile on one end of a cutting board. Dampen hands and roll rice mixture into one inch balls. Then coat each one with bread crumbs.
In a small deep skillet heat olive oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (make sure oil covers the rice balls). Fry rice balls six at a time turning as needed to ensure even browning. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.
NOTE: The first time I made these Italian Rice Balls, I was amazed how much flavor and crunch they had. For the deep frying I used an electric wok so that I could control the heat of the oil, and use less of it. I had a premonition that Joey Fatone was a wonderful cook, and this recipe proves I was right!