Monday, May 9, 2011

Feeling Croquettish

I am a big fan of Top Chef and watch, ok dvr and watch later, without fail. During the recent season of Top Chef All Stars there was an episode set at Rao’s, a home style Italian restaurant in Manhattan where you can’t get a table. Ever. Unless you know someone who will let you use their standing reservation. So I was reminded that I’ve owned Rao’s cookbook for years (their roasted red peppers are brilliant) and hadn’t used it in quite some time. My turn to host our foodie group was coming up so I decided we would have a home style Italian dinner a la Rao’s. I love to take my time planning a menu; it’s really a sensual activity perusing recipes and ideas, daydreaming about how they will all come together.

I forgot to take pictures, so I cheated and filched this.

Rather than pasta with marinara or a risotto as a side dish I decided the potato croquettes looked intriguing and delicious and decided to go with them. I must admit I have little experience with potato croquettes; I can’t really remember if I have previously eaten them, but I probably have. Cooking them was an entirely new experience so I was a little nervous about it but decided to forge ahead. They have to be deep fried, a style I seldom use for various reasons, so I don’t own a fryer. However, a heavy duty saucepan and a spider took over the fryer duties. I like grapeseed oil for frying because of its high smoke point and neutral taste. It’s also easier for me to find and cheaper to buy than peanut oil. I really like to use panko (Japanese bread crumbs) for coating instead of the usual bread crumbs. The texture is much more interesting, with a crispy coating and tender, cheesy inside, so this is really a hybrid dish. Italian food is incredibly popular in Japan so I feel way cool about it!


Potato Croquettes

1 tb plus 4 cups grapeseed or canola oil
1/2  cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped prosciutto
1 pound all-purpose potatoes, cooked and mashed with a ricer
3 large egg yolks
½ pound fresh mozzarella, finely chopped
¼ pound freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tb finely minced Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups panko crumbs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 whole eggs

Heat 1 tb oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Saute onion for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Placed mashed potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add onions and prosciutto and mix together well with a wood spoon.

Beat in egg yolks, cheeses and parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Use your hands to shape potato mixture into 12 logs. It helps to refrigerate the mixture for half an hour or so first before trying to shape the croquettes. I also like to weigh the mixture so they’re all the same size.

You will need 3 wide shallow bowls for breading your croquettes: one with the panko (seasoned with salt and pepper), one with the flour and the third with the eggs, whisked well.

Gently dredge each log in the flour. Then dip into the eggs and then roll in the panko, coating the croquettes well.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a fryer if you have one, or in a saucepan, to 365 degrees. I lowered 3 logs into the oil at a time; while they were cooking I quickly coated the next three. Pull them out of the oil after they turn medium golden brown and drain on paper towels. Serve while still hot.

For more, I recommend that you buy the Rao’s Cookbook by Frank Pellegrino - if you like home style Italian. And the stories aren’t so bad either.

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