Sunday, January 17, 2010
Trader Joe's Arancini Bites
I love it when Trader Joe's adds new products to their lineup. I was browsing the appetizer section in frozen foods (yes, I like to eat many of TJ's appetizers as a dinner), and these little cheese-filled rice balls jumped out at me.
Lest you think Trader Joe's is making up words just for fun: according to the all knowing Wikipedia entry, arancini are breadcrumb-coated, fried (or rarely, baked) rice balls. See, learned something new, didn't ya? I know that rice balls aren't exactly an exotic addition to one's diet, but they are not a huge part of mine. Believe it or not, the first, last, and only other time I remember eating rice balls was at Matt's Grill in New York City -- and then they were incredibly addicting. But, as I live roughly 3,000 miles from there, it's not like I can just run out for a plate.
Trader Joe's version looked promising coming out of the oven. (They should not be microwaved.) Each rice ball is roughly the size of a Swedish meatball. The light breading browned nicely -- and having cut into one for Food Porn's sake, the cheese oozed seductively enough. But does it taste good?
At first I thought that perhaps I had undercooked them, so I put them back in the oven for an extra five minutes.
No, it was not my cooking, nor was it my oven.
Since the balls were so nicely browned, I was expecting something of a crispy shell. But what I got felt undercooked to the point of being almost raw grains of rice.
Beyond the crunchy rice, the strongest flavor in the ball seems to be onion. The ingredients do indeed include green onion. But the onion effect reminded me of undercooked frozen onion rings (you know, the ones you buy at the grocery store in plastic bags). The fontina cheese was mild and just a little salty. When the balls were still warm, the cheese did that great stringing effect when being bitten into.
Love Trader Joe's as I do, I did not love these rice balls. The texture was weird, the onion tasted like raw processed onion-type product. The overall effect was really quite nasty. I did like the cheese -- not enough that I would want to teabag another set, mind you, but I did like the cheese.
But in the end the cheese alone is nowhere near sufficient to redeem these. An interesting experiment, but one that failed completely in practice. I will certainly not buy them again.