Croquettes From Around the World Part 3

Cooking with Beer by | Sep 2015 | Issue #104

Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

In issues #101 and #102, I shared recipes for croquettes made with potato, rice and an extra thick béchamel sauce. In this issue, we try a Brazilian version. These South American croquettes differ from those in other countries, as the coating is made with stock leftover from cooking the protein filling that’s incorporated with flour, salt and fat and cooked together, much like a pâte à choux (a dough used to make sweet cream puffs, éclairs and savory cheesy gougères). The fillings can change depending on your craving and the available beers, but the techniques are all here.

Brazilian Chicken Croquettes
When I was in Rio de Janeiro last year, I ate at a wonderful Brazilian restaurant called Aconchego Carioca. Among the many amazing dishes we consumed, paired with a huge selection of beer from South American craft breweries, was an appetizer called coxinhas, Brazilian chicken croquettes. Filled with poached chicken, shredded and mixed with cream cheese, these croquettes are formed into a small fig or chicken leg shape, breaded and fried. Talk about the perfect bar snack! This is my version, using Brown Ale to reinforce the flavors produced by the Maillard reactions in malted barley, the browning of the chicken and the sautéed vegetables, creating depth in these bite-size treats.

Makes: 24 croquettes

Chicken Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2  lb. chicken thighs, bone in, skin on, about 2–2-1/4 pounds
2 celery, washed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed lightly
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced thin
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
1/2 Spanish onion, large, peeled and chopped
2 sprig Italian leaf parsley
1 leek tops, green part only, sliced (optional)
1 tbsp Mexican oregano, dried
12 oz Short’s Brewing Bellaire Brown or another Brown Ale
4 cup water or chicken stock
salt and pepper

Add oil to a large skillet or Dutch oven, placed over medium-high heat. Season the chicken thighs on each side with salt and pepper. Place the thighs in the skillet, skin side down, spacing them so they aren’t touching. Cook for 5–7 minutes, rendering out the fat and browning the skin to a nice golden brown color. Flip the thighs and cook another 5–7 minutes. When the chicken thighs have browned on both sides, put them in a bowl and pour the fat (schmaltz) into a ramekin or other container.

While the chicken cooks, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Next, measure out 2 tablespoons of the fat and add it back to the pan, reserving the remaining schmaltz for other uses. With the pan still over medium high heat, add the prepared celery, garlic, carrot, bay leaf, onion, parsley, leek tops and oregano, sautéing for 7–9 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown. Deglaze the pan with the Brown Ale and use a spatula to scrape the pan, removing any of the fond (cooked brown spots) on the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken thighs back into the pan and add the water, making sure the poultry is fully covered. Once the liquid is boiling, turn the heat to low, cover, and let the chicken poach for about an hour.

When the chicken is fully cooked, remove it to a bowl and cool for about 20 minutes. Strain the remaining cooking liquid, which has become a stock, into a measuring cup. You want 3 cups of stock altogether. If you have more, add it back into the pan and reduce until you have that amount. Save this stock for the croquette dough.

Filling Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp schmaltz or another fat/oil
1/2 Spanish onion, large, peeled and chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 pasilla pepper, roasted, skin and seeds removed, then chopped fine
2 green onion, green and white parts, sliced thin
2–3 drops hot sauce
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed, dried and leaves chopped fine
2 tbsp IPA, preferably on the citrusy side
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

When the thighs are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and shred or finely chop the chicken into small pieces, discarding the bone and any cartilage. Add the cream cheese to the warm chicken and set aside. In a saucepan placed over medium-high heat, add the butter and sauté the onion until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the prepared pasilla pepper and cook one minute more. Pour the onion and pepper mixture on top of the cream cheese and add a few pinches of salt and pepper, hot sauce and cilantro. Using a spatula, combine all the ingredients. Set aside for an hour, allowing the filling to cool.

Coating Ingredients:
3 cup all-purpose flour
2 extra large eggs, cracked and whisked together
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cup bread crumbs or panko


Assembly & Directions:
While the filling cools, place a medium sized pan over medium heat. Add the 3 cups of reserved Brown Ale stock, flour, salt and schmaltz (or oil), whisking together to form a thick dough. Using a spatula, fold and stir the dough for about 3 minutes, stirring consistently, to prevent it from scorching. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and using rubber gloves, knead it for a minute. Then, roll it into a log the diameter of a rolling pin. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for an hour to cool and set.

Cut the dough into 3/4-inch thick pieces and roll them into spheres about the size of a ping-pong ball. Press your thumb into the middle of the ball and rotate it, pressing it around your palm to create a bowl shape with an even thickness of about 1/10 inch (3 mm). Scoop in a tablespoon of the filling and bring your fingertips together, cupping the dough around the filling. Pinch the dough together until the balls are sealed and the top has a little bit more dough. Shape it into a fig-shaped finished croquette. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Next, whisk the eggs together with the salt and set aside. Place a bowl with the bread crumbs next to it. Dip a croquette in the egg wash, coating it on all sides and letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Then, roll it in the bread crumbs, pressing gently to make an even layer while maintaining its fig shape. Set onto a sheet tray and repeat. Once finished, wrap the tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, or freeze overnight and then place into a freezer bag for up to 3 months.

To cook: Heat oil in a fryer or large, wide pot to 350°F. Fry three coxinhas at a time for 4–5 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and they float. Remove from the oil with a skimmer, place on a rack over paper towels and serve immediately.

To pair: I like a citrus-forward IPA, Witbier or Kölsch to cut through the fat of the crust and the cream cheese filling. An IPA will also enhance the light heat of the pasilla pepper and the hot sauce.

Variation: Mushroom Tofu Coxinhas
To recreate a vegetarian version with some of the meaty flavor that coxinhas are known for, use earthy, meaty and umami-rich mushrooms instead. Meanwhile, tofu adds substance and texture. Replace the chicken thighs with 1-1/2 pounds of crimini, shitake or oyster mushrooms. Wash and clean the fungus of any debris, then slice them. Brown in a sauté pan until the edges start to turn golden brown. Add one 12-ounce package of extra firm tofu that has been drained and pressed to remove most of its liquid. Cut the tofu into small cubes and add to the remaining ingredients, cooking for a few more minutes. Substitute chicken stock with a roasted vegetable or mushroom stock, replace the chicken fat with olive oil and make the dough. Instead of the traditional fig or chicken leg shape, form the vegetarian croquettes into round balls so they are recognizable and won’t be confused with a chicken or meat version. Finally, instead of using an egg wash, lightly brush the coxinhas in ice water to let the bread crumbs stick to the dough, and then fry as directed.