Nori says hello. He thinks you should make these croquettes and bring them to him on this slightly wet, slightly snowy, entirely grey day. He’ll thank you with a rub against your legs. Maybe a purr if you’re lucky.
He thinks that these croquettes are the cat’s meow.
Too soon for a corny joke?
Sorry…know it’s Monday morning.
These crunchy beauties evoked a few “moods” in the kitchen while I made them. Not a bad mood by any means. Just the desire to disappear and travel back in time 80 or 90 years to the age of jazz cats and prohibition cocktails.
For some reason, after the squash caramelized I was reminded of a golden sunset fading into the deep blue ocean at the end of the day and I felt beckoned to cross over to the dark side; to find a speakeasy in the mid ’20s where Louis Armstrong was playing, to drink a French 75 (or two), and bring these to share and nibble on with the barkeeps .
I think that’s one reason why I love food so much and why I’m enjoying doing more food photography…my mood changes sometimes as I go about making a recipe or styling a shoot and I like the places that I go to in my mind. From the pre- to after-roasting photo, I went back many decades to an era in which I didn’t exist and can only daydream or read about. Is that weird?
Croquettes can be any combination of vegetables, meat or cheese and are typically fried after being rolled in breadcrumbs. I decided to get some guidance on making these as this was my first time venturing into the croquette world. Enter, Love & Lemons. I’ve become a big fan of this blog over the past two months and find inspiration in their beautiful photos and heavily-vegetable based recipes.
This recipe was easy to follow and required little adaptation to meet my needs (I needed to make some vegan, some un-vegan to please multiple mouths). I liked that these croquettes were baked as a sheet pan is much easier to clean up than hot oil splatters, and they’re a little lighter…perfect for the joint-birthday party I enjoyed with one of my best friends on Friday night.
Here are the main ingredients you need, excluding a couple of pantry staples like flour, salt and pepper.
The squash mash is simply roasted squash that’s been processed or hand-mashed until smooth, like you would potatoes. I used a food processor to make the “batter” come together faster, though I’m sure mixing in a bowl works just as well since that’s what Love & Lemons instructed.
I split the mixture in half to make one vegan version and one that had feta in it. I can tell you that many meat and cheese-eaters happily crossed over to the veg-only side at the party and helped devour the vegan version as well as the un-vegan version. And yes, “un-vegan” is a word…I decided that on Friday night.
After a quick roll through breadcrumbs, these babies were ready to bake.
The final star of the show was the coconut milk sauce, which I sadly didn’t take pictures of until it was done. It definitely deserves mention here. I took plain cultured coconut milk (So Delicious brand…it’s essentially vegan yogurt) and mixed it with garlic, lime, cilantro, and seasonings. It came together in a snap and I’ve been eating the leftovers as dip for raw veggies the past couple days. I’m not a huge coconut fan yet really liked the taste of this sauce, so don’t be scared off by that one ingredient.
These make a delicious party appetizer, but I can see them going over well for a light lunch or dinner, too. I think all the cool cats would agree to that.
Lightly adapted from Love & Lemon’s recipe
Makes about 25 – 1.5″ croquettes
For squash mash:
2 small butternut squash (~1 LB each) or 1 medium butternut squash (makes about 3 cups mash)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
To form croquettes:
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (Hungarian-style is really good with this!)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
splash of agave syrup (can substitute in maple syrup)
2/3 cup scallions, both white and green parts chopped (~ 2 scallions)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (decrease this amount by half if you’re doing half vegan and half non, or leave out for all vegan)
2 cups panko bread crumbs, for rolling
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the outside layer of skin off the squash. Cut the squash long-ways down the middle and then scoop out seeds. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle a little bit (~1 Tablespoon) of olive oil on the sides and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until caramelized. When the squash is cool, mash in a large bowl using the back of a spoon. You can do this step 1-2 nights before making the croquettes – just cover and refrigerate the mash.
2. In the base of a food processor or a large bowl, combine the squash mash with all ingredients from flour to feta, if using. Stir or pulse until well combined. The “batter” will be somewhat smooth and sticky.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and set aside. On a large plate, pour out the panko breadcrumbs.**If making half vegan and half un-vegan, make sure to divide the batter before rolling and add in the feta to the un-vegan version. Using your fingers, scoop about 2 Tablespoons of the squash batter and press to form a circle that’s about 1.5″ wide. This part is messy, so don’t fret if you don’t get perfect spheres — they will still taste just as good. Roll the ball in the breadcrumbs and then place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all of the batter is used.
4. Bake at 350 for 17 to 18 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn the high broiler on and bake for another 2 – 3 minutes until golden. This helps ensure a crunchy exterior.
5. While the croquettes bake, make the dipping sauce and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Garlicky Coconut Milk Dipping Sauce Ingredients
1 cup plain cultured coconut milk, such as So Delicious brand (can substitute plain yogurt if making un-vegan)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
few cracks of fresh black pepper
Splash of olive oil, optional
1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients in order as they’re written. Start with only 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt and add a little more if you feel like it’s needed.
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the flavors combine. When ready to serve, take it out and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week.