Croquettes From Around the World Part 1

Cooking with Beer by | Jun 2015 | Issue #101

Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

When was the last time you had a croquette? You know, those delicious fried balls of breaded goodness? Most cuisines have a fried appetizer that falls into this category. I’ve tried versions of them all over the world: in Belgium, Spain, Brazil and Italy. In the US, we don’t see croquettes on the menu too often. The tater tot is the closest relative. Croquettes can be made with mashed potatoes, leftover rice or risotto or even an extra thick béchamel. The possibilities are endless and since they freeze well, they’re a great snack for an impromptu gathering with a few beers.

Cubano Croquettes
This is a version of a potato croquette, using all of the flavors that make a great Cubano sandwich.  When fried, the coating mimics the panini grilled bread, enclosing the textures and flavors of the classic sandwich in a bite-sized format.

Makes: 40 3-inch croquettes, enough for 8 servings.

2 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into sixths
2 tbsp kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tbsp beer, ideally a citrus-forward IPA, like Russian River Blind Pig IPA
1 tbsp beer mustard, like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale & Honey Spice
1 extra large egg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp spicy bread & butter pickles, minced
1/2 lb. Emmental, Gruyère or Swiss cheese, rind removed and grated
1/2 lb. roasted or pulled pork (leftovers)
1/4 lb. ham, thinly sliced and chopped into small pieces

Coating Ingredients:
3 extra large eggs
4 cup panko bread crumbs

Croquette Directions:
Place prepared potatoes into a medium pot, adding just enough water to cover them an inch or so. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and garlic to the water and place over high heat. Bring the potatoes to a boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cooking until they are fork tender (about 14–17 minutes). Drain the potatoes in a colander for about 5 minutes, shaking a few times to remove as much water as possible.

For a creamier croquette filling, use a potato ricer, spätzle maker or food mill. Fill the device and press the cooked potatoes onto a sheet tray, spreading them out evenly to cool them faster. Or, to make a more textured croquette filling, return the drained potatoes to the pot and use a potato masher to break most of them down. Then spread this mixture out evenly on a sheet tray to cool.

As the potatoes cool to room temperature, take a bowl and add the IPA, beer mustard, egg, remaining salt and minced pickles. Using a fork, combine the ingredients into a homogenous liquid then add the grated cheese, pork and ham. With your hands, knead the ingredients together into a meat and cheese ball.

Once the potatoes reach room temperature, take the meat and cheese ball and shred it in pieces, evenly distributing it over the riced potatoes. Fold the meat and potatoes together to create a dough. Be careful not to overwork the mixture, as the potatoes will get tough. Some air in the dough will make the finished croquettes light and fluffy, not gummy.

Transfer the finished dough to a 1-gallon Ziplock bag, remove as much air as possible, and seal it. Press the dough into a corner of the bag and cut a 1-inch hole at the tip. Have ready a clean sheet tray. Using the bag as a pastry bag, squeeze out a long rope of potato mixture down the length of the tray. Repeat to create five ropes using all the dough. With a knife, cut each rope into eight 2-inch pieces. One at a time, lightly roll each piece and shape it into a cylinder. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

Coating Directions:
Set two wide-rimmed bowls next to each other. Moving from left to right on your countertop, place the panko bread crumbs in the first bowl, the cracked eggs into the second (lightly whipping them to an even yellow color with a fork), and finally the potato pieces. Wearing latex gloves makes this next step cleaner. Take a croquette and roll it carefully in the egg wash, coating all sides. Let any extra wash drip back into the bowl and transfer it to the bread crumbs. Using your fingertips, delicately roll the cylinder into the panko, coating all sides. Pick up the piece and gently roll the croquette to press the bread crumbs into the potato, creating an even crust that will enclose the potato completely. This is key, as it will prevent cheese or meat from oozing out when frying. Set onto a clean sheet tray and repeat with the remaining potato pieces.

Once the croquettes are coated they can be frozen for up to three months, or refrigerated up to four hours before cooking. If freezing the croquettes, transfer them to a Ziplock bag once frozen and remove as much air as possible, then seal and return to the freezer.

To cook, fill a fryer with oil or fat. Set to 350°F. Fry four to six at a time for about 2 1/2 or 3 minutes, creating a golden brown crust and a molten center. Remove to a cooling rack with tongs or a fry skimmer, letting any remaining oil drip onto a sheet tray below. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Beer Mustard Aioli Dipping Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp IPA, on the citrusy side
2 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tbsp beer mustard, like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale & Honey Spice
2 tsp garlic powder (or roasted garlic powder from Savory Spice Co.)
1 tsp ground turmeric (for color)
1/2 tsp kosher salt

In a bowl, add the mayonnaise, IPA, malt vinegar, beer mustard, garlic powder, turmeric and salt. Whisk into a smooth sauce. Transfer to a sealable container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For a vegetarian version, substitute the pork and ham for 3/4 pound of smoked tofu grated on the large holes of a box grater.


Italian Rice Croquettes
If you have any Italian heritage, you’ll call these croquettes arancini. This version is made with rice, stuffed with cheeses (or meat or ragu), breaded and fried.

Makes: 15 croquettes, enough for 5 servings.

1 cup rice, such as sushi, risotto or short grain
10 oz beer, such as a Brown Ale or another malt-forward style
6 oz water
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tsp kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 oz beer, such as a Brown Ale or another malt-forward style
4–5 sun-dried tomatoes, diced (about a 1/4 cup)
1 extra large egg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup Parmesan, pecorino or Asiago cheese, grated fine
1/3 lb. provolone or mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

Coating Ingredients:
2 extra large eggs
2 cup panko or plain bread crumbs

In a medium pot with a lid, add the starchy un-rinsed rice (which makes the croquettes hold together better), beer, water, marjoram, 1 teaspoon salt and garlic. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Then turn heat to low and cover for 18–20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is fully cooked. Transfer the rice to a clean sheet tray and spread it out in an even layer, allowing it to cool to room temperature for about an hour.

As the rice is cooling, measure out 2 ounces of Brown Ale and add the sun-dried tomatoes. Microwave for 45–60 seconds and allow the tomatoes to rehydrate until the rice is cool, about an hour. In a large bowl, add the egg and 1/2 teaspoon salt, whisking until the egg is a pale yellow color, then add in the rehydrated tomatoes and the cooled rice. Mix together and add the grated Parmesan cheese.

Use your hands or an ice cream scoop to transfer the rice mixture in golf ball-sized spheres onto a sheet tray. Lightly wet your hands in water to prevent the rice from sticking to them. Place a single ball in your palm. Then, using your other thumb, press it into the center until you reach the middle, moving your thumb around to make room for the cheese (or another filling). Add a few pieces of the cubed cheese, seal the hole and re-form the rice croquette into a ball. Set on the opposite side of the tray and repeat with the remaining balls.

Coating Directions:
Follow the coating directions under Cubano Croquettes. Fry in olive oil or another fat for 3 minutes, until golden brown. Garnish with a pinch of grated Parmesan cheese and Italian leaf parsley.