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

 

 

Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemongrass

Chicken noodle soup with lemongrassI haven’t posted  a couple of days, but it’s not because I was neglecting you my friends, I just didn’t want to bore you to tears with the mush I have eaten.  You see, last Sunday I came down with a severe tooth ache,  and all I have eaten is porridge like stuff, or yogurt, or mashed potatoes.   I mean, I assume you didn’t want a post on how to make oatmeal.  Naaaaah. So, I kind of got tired of the blandness, and once my tooth started feeling better, I decided to venture on something a little more consistent, like a noodle soup. But, I was craving taste, and something different, so I picked up this copy of Fine Cooking magazine that I had lying around, and they had this amazing noodle soup on the cover.

I have to admit, this is easy, but it has a lot of steps to it.  So, to further ease the process, I changed up the recipe a little, like instead of cooking my chicken breasts, I bought a roast chicken and used them.  Also, since I love mushrooms, I added a bit more shiitake than called for, and it gave the broth more depth and flavour, it was more umami.

chicken noodle soup with lemongrass ingredientsThis soup is a cross between Vietnamese Pho and Japanese Udon, and the combination works.  I love the acidity of the lime juice, paired with the earthiness of the shiitake.  And who doesn’t love fresh cilantro and chilies?  (Yes, a lot of people, I know.)

The subtle aftertaste of lemongrass was divine, and every two bites or so you would get this bit of basil.  I really cannot wait to make this again.  It is going to be a staple in my kitchen this winter!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, Apr/May 2010

Serves 4

2 1/2 tbsp canola oil

2 small boneless chicken breasts, butterflied (or use the chicken breast of a roast chicken, or any other pre-cooked chicken you have leftover)

3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings

2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, outer layers discarded , halved lengthwise, and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife.

1 tbsp fresh minced ginger

2 tsp packed light brown sugar

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered ( I used dry, and added 3 cups, presoaked in boiling water for 20 minutes.)

9 oz. udon noodles

1 Thai bird chili (or 1 small Serrano pepper) sliced into thin rings

8 fresh basil leaves, torn

1 medium lime, half juiced, and half cut into wedges ( I used three… I love me some lime!)

1 tbsp soy sauce, more to taste

2 medium scallions, trimmed and sliced for garnish

1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks, for garnish

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

If you are using the uncooked chicken breast, heat a dutch oven over medium high heat,add the oil and add the chicken breasts and cook until browned on each side and cooked through.  Transfer to a cutting board and let cool, and when cool to the touch, shred it with a fork or your fingers.  If you have leftovers, just omit the step and get to shredding!

If there isn’t enough oil left over, add a little more and then add the shallots to the pot.  Sprinkle with salt, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the shallots begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the lemongrass, ginger, and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until the ginger and lemongrass sizzle and become fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the chicken broth and shiitake, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and raise the heat to medium high.  Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 15 minutes.  Then turn off heat and let it sit for a while, so the flavours meld.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the noodles, stirring, until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a colander and run under cold water to cool slightly.  Drain well.

When you are ready to eat, heat the soup up again, add the chicken and noodles to the broth and cook until the noodles are completely tender, about 2 minutes.  Discard the lemongrass.  Stir in the chilies, torn basil, lime juice, and soy sauce; season with more soy to taste.  Divide noodles among 4 large, deep bowls.  Ladle the soup over the noodles and garnish with the scallions, carrot, and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges for squeezing.  Slurp away!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla