Sunday, December 06, 2009

Crazy for Croquettes

Inspired by my brother's risotto manchego balls featured on his daily saliva-inducing blog, I decided to make croquettes to snack on while I lazed about at home this afternoon. I scoured the net for croquette recipes, hoping to find a website or blog dedicated to the gazillion options for croquette fillings. Surprisingly, I couldn't find one. I did, however, find various croquette recipes on various sites. I decided to follow Mark Bittman's Spanish Chicken Croquette recipe as well as create my own based on what I had in my kitchen.

Having a large can of corn in my pantry and being a true believer that corn goes with just about anything, I added corn to Mark Bitten's recipe. It was delicious! Eaten fresh off the stove, the crispy Panco breadcrumb crust just perfectly matched the creamy bechamel chicken filling with bits of sweet corn, yum yum yum.

Mark Bittman's Spanish Croquettes

Put two small whole, skin-on chicken legs into a pot with a carrot, half an onion, half a clove of garlic and two inches of celery, all roughly chopped. Add fresh parsley, a bay leaf, a few peppercorns and some salt. Cover with water, bring to the boil and lower the heat to a simmer — the liquid should still be gently bubbling. Simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chicken is tender, and let everything cool in the pot.
Make a thick b├ęchamel sauce: finely mince a tiny onion or a shallot, to yield two or three tablespoons. Melt four tablespoons butter in a small saucepan and sweat the onion over low heat for three or four minutes until soft. Whisk in four tablespoons flour (or 4-1/2 if you want the croquettes to be easier to handle if not quite as oozy) and cook for around five minutes — don’t brown this roux. Now gradually whisk in 3/4 cup each of whole milk and chicken broth (from cooking the chicken legs).Simmer over very low heat for about ten minutes, frequently stirring/scraping with a rubber spatula or a whisk — it will be quite thick and smooth. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Meanwhile, pull the meat off the chicken legs, discarding bones, skin and tough connective tissue. Shred it with your fingers (which will enable you to detect and get rid of any bits of kneecap or tendon), then chop fairly fine with a knife. You could just chop it up, but you want that somewhat fibrous, shredded texture. Cool, cover and place in the refrigerator to solidify, a process that can be sped up up by using a shallow dish rather than a deep container.
When it is cold and quite solid, line a tray or plate with waxed paper and form 16 two-tablespoon balls of the mixture. Put this in the fridge while you prepare three bowls: one with some flour for dredging; one with a beaten egg; and one with plenty of crumbs, I used Panko. With your hands, roll each ball into a rough cylinder, then run it in turn through the flour, the egg and the crumbs. Leave aside while you heat a good two inches of neutral oil (possibly supplemented with some olive oil for flavor ) to between 325 and 350 degrees Farhrenheit — but no higher than that: you don’t want them to brown too much before they’re heated through.
Fry, in batches depending on the size of your pan, for about five minutes, turning once or twice to ensure even browning. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a platter.

My improvised Potato Croquettes

I decided to make a mixture of potatoes boiled then mashed, mixed with some hot milk, canned corn and generous heaps of shredded mozarella cheese.
I followed the same procedure of rolling them into balls and dipping them into flour mixture, followed by the beaten egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs.
It was good but definitely not as good as the Chicken Croquettes. Pretty hard to compete with the bechamel sauce, but still tasty nevertheless. I think I'll try the authentic Japanese style next time of mixing in sauted onions and ground beef into the potato mixture.
I also want to try Mark Bittman's Croquette recipe with sauteed shitake mushrooms instead of shredded chicken. Or perhaps boiled broccoli or cauliflower instead? I also want to try doing a potato croquette with asparagus and pancetta. Or what about a sweet potato croquette instead of potatoes?
Aaagh, the world of deep fried goodness is an exciting one I can't way to experiment with different combinations.

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