The origin of the croquette is réchauffé (re-heated) food: left overs were given body with mashed root vegetables, pulses, béchamel and other sauces, then breaded and fried or baked till golden crisp.
Depending on the occasion you might opt for unpretentious simplicity or an intense flavour sensation to knock your guests off their chairs in a gustatory rapture . The croquette gives you a lot of creative elbow room.
The earliest known recipes date back to the court of Louis XIV in 1691 giving the French the honour of invention.
In truth, even then the croquette had diversified into many forms, not just in France but all over Europe, Asia and North Africa, spreading in due course to the Americas.
Belgian kroketten are elaborate modern varieties served in most restaurants as a main, filled with cheese, prawn and even containing beer. Italy’s contributions include the creamed aubergine and parmesan crocchette from Puglia.Japanese Korokke include a sweet potato variety. Did you know that Korokke was the single most sold frozen food in Japan in 2017?
In Spain béchamel-based croquettes are the favourite, but we also use chickpeas, beans, lentils, char-grilled vegetables and even creamed potato. They are finger food and ideal as tapas.
If you want to try something a bit different here’s a chestnut béchamel recipe with wild mushrooms and tarragon
Croquetas De Castaña Con Boletus (Chestnut and wild Mushroom Croquettes)
- 200 g porcini or other fresh wild mushrooms
- 1 big dollop butter or a mixture of butter and oilive oil
- a dash of balsamic or sherry vinegar
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3 tbsp chestnut flour availble from Italian delis
- 1 cup milk you can use unsweetened almond, oat, soya or other non-dairy milk
- 1 bunch finely chopped tarragon (dry is fine) rosemary, thyme, parsely and chervil also work well with mushrooms
For the coating
- beaten egg
- oil for frying
- put the milk into a bowl and leave to reach room temperature
- wipe the mushrooms with a clean damp cloth to remove earth and other debris. Chop coarsely and set aside
- chop the onion and garlic finely and sauté gently in a little oilive oil, butter or both until soft and slightly browned
- make a well in the centre of the pan and add the vinegar. Cook until it has completely evaporated, then give the onions a stir
- add the chestnut flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly. The roux should be a little runny. If it clumps up add a bit more butter or oil. Cook on a very low heat for 1-2 minutes without stirring and without browning
- add the milk all at once, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. If this worries you add it gradually.
- mix in the mushrooms and herbs and season with salt and pepper
- allow the mixture to cool completely
making the croquettes
you can simply toss the croquettes in a little chestnut flour and pop hem straight in the pan. The danger is that the relatively thin crust will break up creating a soggy mess. Deep frying is the best option in this case.
for best results use the three tier method
- beat a couple of eggs in a bowl
- sprinkle some chestnut flour onto a plate
- sprinkle breadcrumbs on another plate - these are made in seconds in a coffee grinder, food processor or mini chopper; you can use any bread
- heat a good amount of light olive oil in a pan
- spoon small portions of the cold croquette mixture onto your floured hand and shape into discs, balls or cylinders.
- coat them with flour, dip them in the egg and finally roll the croquette in the breadcrumbs.
- shallow or deep fry over medium heat until golden brown, placing them on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. Serve immediately.