Shiitake Croquetas

Shiitake Croquetas

 

I LOVE CROQUETAS.  Croquetas are croquettes, usually made with leftover ham, but now a days, you can find them filled with anything your heart desires.  I have had cheese, spinach, pine nuts and raisins, beef, onion, fish…..the list goes on.

I have eaten croquetas since I was a kid, and I think my obsession started because my parents really didn’t buy or make them.  In Miami it is a Cuban thing, and the only time I would get to eat them is when I went to sleep at my Uncle Ernest and Aunt Myra’s house.  We used to have them for breakfast.  Sooooo good.

Now, call me stupid, but I had no idea that croquetas was a Spanish thing.  When I first landed in Spain, and saw that every single restaurant had a croqueta on the menu, I had an “A-ha!” moment.  Croquetas originally are made with left over chicken or pieces of Jamon mixed with a thick béchamel, then coated with breadcrumbs and fried.  The ham ones are still my favorites.  I’m not so sure about the chicken.  I decided to make them with some shiitake, because I had some dried in my fridge, kind of just staring at me every day.

Croquetas are fairly easy to make, but they are laborious and time-consuming.  This is probably something you might want to do on a rainy Sunday, (as I did) and make a lot.  They freeze really well, and as all things, the home-made versions are much better than store-bought, which usually has a very low ham to béchamel ratio, favoring the latter.  And once you get the knack, then the possibilities are endless!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

2 handfuls (sorry, I didn’t measure other than that) dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked and strained, reserving 1 cup soaking liquid, then minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely minced

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour, more for dusting

2 cups milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten

Breadcrumbs, for coating.  In this recipe, I used Panko (Japanese Style Breadcrumbs)

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, shiitake and onion.  Saute until the mushrooms and onions are softened, about 20 minutes.  Make sure all the water from the mushrooms has evaporated too.  Take off heat and set aside.

In a stockpot over low heat, melt the butter and add your flour and mix well, to make a roux.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.  Mix the milk with the cup of soaking liquid, and in a slow stream add to the roux, whisking constantly.  Stir until very thick, about 25 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and mix well.  Spread out on a plate, and let it cool to thicken even more.

Now, on your counter line up the plate with the filling, the bowl with the beaten egg, the bowl with the breadcrumbs, and a baking pan to place them on.  Dust your hands with flour, and grab a bit of the mushroom filling, roll into a ball or a log shape, dip them in the eggs, and then roll them in the breadcrumbs.  Continue to do that in order until all your filling is gone.  If needed wash your hands in between.  If you are not using immediately, you can freeze them in an airtight container for up to a month.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan with olive oil, when it is hot but not smoking, fry your croquetas about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Turn over and repeat.  Place on a plate lined with paper to soak the excess oil.  Serve hot.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta, Bufala Mozarella, Pancetta and Pine Nuts

From my jobs last week, to whirlwind tour guide this week, I haven’t had a moment’s time to sit down and post a recipe until now, so sorry my friends.  You see, my aunt, uncle and their friend are here visiting for the first time, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show them around my beautiful city.  We’ve been traipsing through the Gothic Quarter, frolicking in Gaudi’s Park Guell, feasting on Paella by the azure Mediterranean, and last night sipping Margarita’s while watching the Spain vs. Portugal match!  But two nights ago they came to my house for dinner, and that same afternoon I had taken them to the Boqueria Market and had spotted some amazing Zucchini Blossoms.

I knew immediately I wanted to make something with them, stuff them actually, but I figured I would just play it by ear with what I had at home.  I decided I would stuff them with ricotta, mozzarella, the gorgeous pancetta that I had brought back from Italy and some pine nuts.  I also chopped the baby zucchini into tiny little pieces and mixed it all up.

It was DELICIOUS.  Like, mouth-watering, crazy insane delicious.  I only bought 7 blossoms.  Now I wish I had gotten 20.  I could have just had that for dinner!

This is a surprisingly easy preparation, that will be heavenly for dinner, lunch or canapes.  So, I hope you all try this soon, before these delicate blossoms are out of season again.

 

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

8 zucchini blossoms

4 baby zucchini (the ones that come attached), finely chopped

1/4 cup pancetta, sliced thick and diced

2 tbsp pine nuts

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 bufala mozzarella, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp flour

1 egg

1 tbsp cold water

Slice off the zucchini blossoms, retaining a little bit of the zucchini at the base.  Carefully open the flower and remove the pistil.

In a small frying pan over medium heat, sauté the pancetta and zucchini until crisp.  Add the pine nuts and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Reserve in a bowl, and mix well with the ricotta and mozzarella.  Add salt and pepper.

In another large frying pan, heat the olive oil.  Meanwhile, place your cheese mixture in a pastry bag.

Stuff the blossoms with the cheese mixture, and then twist the ends of the petals to close.  Don’t twist too tight, they are quite delicate.  In another bowl mix the flour, egg and water.

Dip your blossoms in the batter and fry, about 1 minute each side.

Serve hot.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

Creamy Scrambled Eggs and Truffle oil with “Migas de Chorizo” (Chorizo Breadcrumbs)

I apologize for not posting anything yesterday, but I had a huge team building event that I was catering.  It was a huge success, but working all day yesterday took its toll on everything else in my life.

I wanted to share one of our most popular tapas, “Huevos revuelto con Aceite de Trufa y Migas de Chorizo”.  This is such a playful dish, and a huge crowd pleaser.  It’s incredibly fun to eat, right out of the shell, and with a few tips you can easily re-create this at home and serve it just as we did, on the egg crate.

Eggs are divine, and they are so easy to pair with other ingredients.  We wanted to play with the whole “Eggs and Bacon” Bit, but make it more accessible to our Spanish clients by adding Chorizo instead of bacon, which is undoubtedly a very Anglo-Saxon food.

To keep the eggs creamy, and to be able to prepare them before hand and then re-heat them and still be creamy, we made a light béchamel sauce, mixed with the scrambled egg and spooned them back into their shells.  Then with a light drizzle of olive oil, and the addition of the chorizo breadcrumbs, you just plonk it in a 375 F oven for three to four minutes, and serve immediately.

Serving them on the egg crate is not only fun, but super useful.  It allows you to make up to 30 at a time, and then place the whole thing in the oven and take it out again easily.

Migas is a typical dish of central Spain, which was originally made by sheep herders.  It was a way to re-use stale bread, and make it into a filling meal.  We added the chorizo sausage, because of its high content of paprika, it gives the bread crumbs this beautiful red hue that you can see here.

The addition of truffle oil elevates it from a very humble dish to a more sophisticated tapa.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 30 as an appetizer

30 farm fresh eggs

4 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups cold milk

6 tbsp butter

6 tbsp flour

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 stale baguettes

2 pieces of cured chorizo sausage

White or Black truffle oil, for drizzling

If you don’t have an egg cutter, then lay the egg sideways on top of a tea towel, and with a serrated knife slice the wider end of the egg in a quick sawing motion until half way through or less, and then with your fingers take the top off carefully.  Place the egg in a bowl, and your shell back on its crate.  Once you’ve opened all the shells, wash the inside of the egg shells in warm water, and place upside down on the crate to dry.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt your 6 tbsp of butter.  Add the flour, and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, for 5-6 minutes.  Add the cold milk, whisking vigorously so no lumps form.  Continue to cook, for about 10-15 minutes, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  You don’t want it too thick though.  So a key to make sure it isn’t that thick, is when you coat the back of the spoon, blow on it, and if it makes a slight flower pattern and then returns back to normal, you’re done.  Too thick would be that it stays as a flower pattern.  Take off heat and add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat your olive oil.  Whisk the eggs, and cook until done but still juicy.  Add the béchamel, a large spoonful at a time, whisking, until soft and creamy, but still tastes very eggy.  Make sure you don’t add too much, just enough so that it stays creamy when it cools, but not so much that you lose the egg flavor.  I can’t give you exact details, because each egg is different size, and it really has to do with more of the texture you want.  Cover and set aside.

To make the migas, slice the baguette into rounds, and with a food processor, pulse to make bread crumbs.  Set aside.
Then slice the chorizo, and in a food processor, pulse until it is finely chopped.  In a large skillet or sauté pan, place the breadcrumbs and chorizo, and over medium heat, cook until all the bread is coated with chorizo and slightly fried.

To assemble, spoon the scrambled eggs back into their shells until 3/4 full, drizzle with a little of the olive oil, and top with a spoonful of the chorizo breadcrumbs.  Place them back on the crate, and place in a 375 F oven.  Re-heat for 3 to 4 minutes.

Let cool slightly (the shell will be quite hot) and serve on the crate!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Walnut and Feta Cheese Coins

Today is a holiday here.  It feels much more like Sunday than Monday.  We went to the beach, relaxed a bit and came back home lazy and warmed. Yet one of the things that relaxes me the most is baking.  So, I was on the hunt for an easy option, that didn’t require too much prep or cooking time.

As I have mentioned before, I am trying to use my cookbooks more often.  I looked at my shelf, and picked up my book of Greek food.  Leafing through the pages, I came across this recipe that seemed different, delicious yet super simple.

I liked the combination of walnuts and feta cheese, and after we tried them, even my daughter gave them the stamp of approval, and asked me incredulously, “Did you make these?”  It was a proud mama moment.  Mind you, she is very, very picky.  These will be great to serve with a glass of wine, and some cheese and grapes as an hors d’oeuvres.

I had to tweak the recipe a bit, as when I was making it I found the proportion of butter to flour to be too much.  So below you will find the revised recipe.

Adapted from: “Cocinas del Mundo.  Grecia”  By Susanna Tee

So here’s what you’re going to need:

40g Walnuts

230g flour

salt and pepper

115g butter

115g feta cheese

1 egg, beaten for the glaze

Preheat the oven to 190 celsius (375 F)

Place the walnuts in the food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.  I chopped mine by hand so I could get different sizes.  Place in a bowl and set aside.

Add your flour, salt and pepper to the food processor, and add the butter, chopped into squares.  Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse sand.  Add the crumbled feta, the walnuts and mix until you have a smooth dough.

On a clean work surface, dust with flour and place your dough.  With a rolling-pin, roll to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut with a small biscuit cutter, about 2.5 inches.  Place on a baking sheet, glaze with the beaten egg.

Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until firm and golden brown.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days. (If they last that long!)

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Pancetta, Pear and Parmesan “Strudel”

 

 

Hello readers!

How was your weekend?  Mine was great, caught up with some friends who we hadn’t seen in 3 years, took them to a nice tapas restaurant, and then had some cocktails.  But anyhow, today I thought I would post an incredibly simple, yet ridiculously delicious cocktail dish or starter.  I made this a couple of weeks ago for a dinner party, and it was a hit.  So much so that I took an initial picture of it when I cut it open, but then I arranged the slices on a plate and put it on the table, went to get my camera….and *poof*.  They were gone.  Not all of them, because I had one, but the picture would have looked terrible.  So I only have the one picture that I don’t think does it any justice, but I think that by the ingredients you know it’s going to be good.  So go ahead and try it the next time you have guests over.  Or not.  You can definitely make it any time, since it is so easy.  So here goes!

Pancetta, Pear and Parmesan Strudel

1 package of Filo dough

3 Concorde pears, peeled and cut into match sticks

150 g of Pancetta

50 g Walnuts, coarsely chopped

60g of Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp of olive oil

4 tbsp of butter, melted

Poppy seeds for garnish

Pre-heat your oven to 350 deg F (180 C).  On your baking sheet, lay out your filo dough.  Start by placing the pancetta over the filo, overlapping the slices.  Then scatter the nuts over the pancetta.  Scatter the pears and parmesan, add the salt and pepper and drizzle your olive oil over the whole thing.

Roll it into a log, making sure that you seal the edges.  Brush the melted butter over the whole log, and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Before you place it into the oven, it is incredibly useful if you cut the slices prior to cooking, cutting almost all the way through, but leave it intact on the bottom.  If not when it’s cooked and crispy, it will be almost impossible for you to cut it without losing half of the filo.  Trust me, I’ve tried it and cried.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it is gold and crispy.  Take it out of the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes before serving, as it gets cooler the flavors meld together and it is delicious!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla