I love this recipe from my book Fresh Pantry. It is a clever way to use winter squash, changing the texture from something soft to something crispy, which is universally appealing. The smaller the croquette, the more crumb-to-squash ratio, so if you're making for kids who normally steer clear from veg, start small - a little trick!
You can check out the book at your local library, purchase a copy at an independent book store, or download the chapter at my eShop for $2.99.
Crispy Squash Croquettes
Croquettes are little fried patties, typically made with boiled potatoes or fish. I remember eating potato croquettes as a kid growing up in New York. My grandmother’s Italian neighbor in Queens used to season leftover mashed potatoes and shape them into flat-sided domes, then shake them in a brown bag filled with bread crumbs. “Rita used to make hundreds,” my mom recalled, “and everybody loved them.” Inspired by this same idea, the squash here is steamed and mashed as a binder, then liberally seasoned before being shaped and briefly shallow-fried, only to brown the crust before they are finished off in the oven. These crispy croquettes are delicious. Using a starchy squash for these croquettes (such as Hubbard or kabocha) will help them hold their shape better. For frying, I use vegetable oil or olive oil interchangeably.
MAKES 8 TO 10 CROQUETTES
1 pound squash (Hubbard or kabocha), seeds removed and cut into large pieces 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon butter ½ cup finely diced onion 10 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and roughly chopped Pinch of salt FOR FRYING 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs 1 egg Splash of milk ½ to 1 cup vegetable or olive oil
In a large stockpot, add the squash and about 1 inch of water. (You don’t want to submerge the squash; you only want to provide enough water to steam.) Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let the squash steam until very soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain the water from the stockpot. Replace the lid so the squash continues steaming and set aside to cool.
In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-high. When the butter starts to bubble, add the onion, thyme, and salt. Stir the onion mixture often, until very soft and brown, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Scoop the soft flesh from the squash pieces and add to the sauté pan. Mash together to combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Move the squash-onion mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until very cool, preferably overnight but at least an hour. (Cooling the squash will help the croquettes maintain their shape later, so don’t scrimp on time here!)
Set up your frying station. Place the bread crumbs on a small plate. Beat the egg with a splash of milk in a shallow bowl to create an egg wash and set aside. Add about ½ cup of the oil to a deep-sided sauté pan and set over medium heat.
When thoroughly cooled, remove the squash-onion mixture from the fridge. Using a large spoon, scoop and shape it into football-like dumplings, working quickly so it doesn’t warm too much. Using a fork, gently coat the dumpling
in the egg wash and then immediately move it to the bread crumbs. Roll softly with the fork until the entire croquette is covered. Push it to the end of the bread crumb plate, then shape two or three more croquettes. Handle the croquettes as little as possible so they maintain their shape, and only shape as many as you can fry each time. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Test the oil for heat by dropping in a small pinch of bread crumbs. You want the oil hot but not smoking hot. When heated well, the bread crumbs will start frying immediately, though not vigorously. If they are only slightly fizzy, wait until the oil is a bit hotter before frying.
When the oil is ready, gently roll the croquettes into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. They will start to brown immediately. When one side is brown, quarter-turn the croquettes to brown another side. Work in this fashion until all sides are golden brown. The process for one croquette should take about 6 to 8 minutes total. When brown on all sides, remove the croquette with a spatula and slide onto a shallow roasting pan. Continue until all croquettes are done.
Put the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
PANTRY NOTE: These croquettes store well in the fridge, loosely covered, for one day. Any leftover mashed squash can be used in Baked Squash Shepherd’s Pie or as filling for Butternut Squash & Shrimp Dumplings in Green Onion Broth.