I bet you thought, by the title, that this post was going to be about fried rice. It is, sort of. Rice will be fried, but not in the way that a traditional, Asian fried rice dish is.
Yes, we’re starting with cooked rice, an egg, of course, and other veggies, but that’s where the similarities end. Today, we’re cooking up rice fritters.
With three cups of leftover rice from the Bamboo Rice post, I thought about making a traditional fried rice dish, but then I stumbled upon Gina DePalma’s charming post on spinach fritters on Serious Eats and I wondered if I could replace the flour with rice, but lots of it.
Yep. It works.
Gina talks about the virtues of mature, leafy spinach (namely, it tastes like spinach) vs. the bagged (but convenient) baby spinach.
I’m using mature spinach for this recipe, even if it involves a little work, like removing the stems and a couple – or three – dunks in a water bath to remove the grit.
For our fritters, we need to lightly cook the spinach and squeeze out most of the water so the fritters aren’t soggy. You could use frozen spinach to save a step — just need to thaw and really squeeze out all the water.
Isn’t it amazing how much spinach shrinks when you add a little heat? Besides the spinach, cooked rice and egg, anything else you want to throw into the mix is totally up to you.
If I were you, I’d include some sort of, what we in the food biz call, “aromatics.” Not sure why we call them aromatics – more appropriately they should be called taste-o-matics – I’m referring to garlic and onions. They do smell good, but flavor is their main purpose.
I used scallions. I also threw in a chopped jalapeno because I like to spice things up a bit, and well, everything tastes better with a jalapeno – not to mention the generous dose of vitamin C, given the jalapeno’s size.
The rice, spinach and other goodies go into a large bowl for mixing. I added just a smidgen (don’t you like that word?) of flour to help bind the mixture together, but when I say smidgen, I mean it. One tablespoon of flour for three whole cups of rice qualifies as a smidgen.
Be gentle with the mixing part so that the rice doesn’t become gummy. This is especially important if you are using a naturally sticky cooked rice like the bamboo rice I’m using.
Once it’s all gently mixed, it’s time to portion it out. Remember the ice cream scoop tip I gave you? (#7 on my top ten list of kitchen tools). Now is the time to pull it out of the drawer. I have five or six (maybe nine) different sizes. The #12 scoop is about 1/3 a cup.
(Scoops are sometimes labeled by size, imprinted oh-so-small on the inside of the scoop, on the metal lever that pushes the ice cream out of the scoop. The number refers to the number of scoops in a quart of ice cream.)
You can prepare the fritters up to this point and just refrigerate for a day if you’d like. If you plan to make these in advance, make sure that all the ingredients are cold before you mix them together to avoid that nasty food borne illness plague that results from foods not properly chilled.
Once they’re fried, you can also reheat them if you have any leftovers. I like to reheat them in a toaster oven at 325°F. for 12-15 minutes. You can use the microwave but say goodbye to that nice little crunchy crust if you do.
Spinach & Rice Fritters
Makes 7 (3-inch) fritters
8 to 10 ounces fresh spinach, trimmed, washed and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups cooked rice
1 cup sliced scallions (white and light green parts)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 jalapeno, finely chopped, remove seeds for less heat (optional ingredient)
1 tablespoon flour
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Wilt spinach in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, about 3 or 4 minutes, turning with tongs as it wilts. (My, how it shrinks!) Scrape out into a bowl to cool. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible (Use paper towels if you’re so inclined). Roughly chop the spinach and place in a large bowl.
Stir in the rice, scallions, cheese, and jalapeno (if using) into the bowl with the spinach. Sprinkle with the flour and fold in the egg, salt and pepper. Scoop into 1/3 cup portions (#12 ice cream scoop works well). Flatten to about 3/4-inch thick.
Heat enough oil in a skillet over medium-high heat to cover the bottom by about 1/8-inch. When sizzling hot, add fritters (work in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan). Fry until deep golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and brown other side, another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to drain on paper towels.