Happy Friday everyone! Does anyone else feel like this Friday is particularly festive? I mean, it stands to reason that the Friday before a long weekend (Hello, Victoria Day!) should have a certain buzz about it. And then there’s some kind of wedding or something tomorrow? I don’t know, it’s *barely* been mentioned. So yeah, I guess I should expect this Friday to feel like a party. I mean, I did bring party food. How could it not feel like a celebration? Yes, these Sweet Pea Chorizo Croquettes are my humble contribution to this buzzy Friday. They’re adorable, crispy and addictive as all hell. Basically, they’re everything you want out of an hors-d’oeuvre or canapé. Plus, they have fresh peas! What better way to kick off summer than a bite that highlights the fact that things are growing again? This is a VERY big deal in Canada!
Croquettes are a funny dish. It seems everyone in the world eats them, everyone in the world loves them, but everyone in the world stuffs them with something different. A hell of a lot of variation falls under the croquette umbrella, yet every single one of them manages to hold on to the croquette moniker. These crispy bites exemplify my thoughts on food in general: we are all connected through culinary technique but our tastes differ. True we may use different tools in the kitchen but we all steam, braise and saute. While croquettes vary wildly from country to country, culture to culture, there is a lot about them that remains inherently the same. Just like people. Yes, I just tried to draw a parallel between human nature and croquettes. Are you not entertained?
Initially, when I set out to make these Sweet Pea Chorizo Croquettes, I thought I would go the Spanish route. My single best croquette experience happened in Spain, so I thought it would only respectful to pay homage to that particular morsel. But when I was researching Spain’s version of the croquette, I learned they use bechamel as the binding agent. Listen, I’ve got no qualms with a good bechamel sauce, but for some reason, I was anticipating potato. And honestly, when I get an idea stuck in my head it does not come unstuck.
I actually thought you couldn’t call a croquette a croquette if it didn’t have potato. In fact, I think I superimposed potato into the croquette I ate in Spain. Honestly, I started to doubt everything including my very existence but only for dramatic effect. So, I turned to Google to help me regroup and that’s when I learned an important lesson: A croquette is whatever you make it. Poignant, no?
The croquette can be found on every continent, it has a number of aliases’ and it slips seamlessly between fast food and haute cuisine. It’s basically the food equivalent of a spy. There are simply too many names and variations to go through here, so I’m just going to talk about the countries I borrowed most heavily from when making these Sweet Pea Chorizo Croquettes.
First off let’s talk about Spain. When I visited Barcelona a year and a half ago, I was lucky enough to eat a croquette stuffed with chorizo and manchego. This combo is a classic and it is also unsurprisingly delicious when deep fried. It truly was love at first bite. So, with this blissful memory in mind, I knew I had to add chorizo, but I wasn’t keen about the manchego. Don’t get me wrong, I love manchego. But chorizo is so rich that I felt a little balance was required. Something bright and green but not bitter. A hint of sweet was key. Chorizo is so salty that I felt a bit of sweet would make more of an impact. Sweet peas it was.
Now, for the most complicated part of this whole enterprise: the binding agent. I thought croquettes were essentially fried potato cakes. I thought that was their common thread. But, I was wrong. In places like France, Japan, Spain, and Belgium, croquettes are made with a thick bechamel in place of the mashed potatoes. I mean, this definitely sounds compelling. This would result in gooey almost liquidy croquette innards. Definitely not without its charms. But the heart wants what it wants and this heart wanted potatoes. So, with my heart set on potatoes, I departed from Spain and looked to South America for inspiration. I was delighted to find that Uruguay has a ham and cheese potato croquette and used that variety as a jumping off point to complete these Sweet Pea Chorizo Croquettes.
And that’s the story behind these Sweet Pea Chorizo Croquettes. I hope this has been illuminating and perhaps it’s cleared up some of your croquette misconceptions – if you ever thought to have any.
Sweet Pea Chorizo Croquettes with Lemon Ricotta
- 1 shallot halved & sliced thin
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 large Russet potato peeled & coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1/2 sweet onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced, divided
- 1 cup fresh peas
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 1/4 cup chorizo chiffonade
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint chiffonade
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
- 4 cups canola oil for frying
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Pea shoots for sprinkling
- Place the shallot in a small bowl and cover with the apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
- Fill a large pot 3/4 of the way full with water. Add the potato and bring the water to a boil. Boil the potato until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potato and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until just translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cloves of the garlic to the pan and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
- Place the peas in a small pot of water and place over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Boil the peas for 2 minutes, then drain. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the peas and a sprinkling of salt. Toss to coat and set aside.
- Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add the onions, the peas, the milk, the remaining butter, the chorizo and the mint. Using a potato masher, mash the ingredients until smooth and well integrated. Taste the mixture and season with salt accordingly. Take roughly 1 tablespoon of the mixture and form it into a small cylinder. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture.
- Pour the breadcrumbs onto a large plate in an even layer. Take one croquette and dunk it into the beaten eggs, then roll it in the breadcrumbs. Transfer the croquette to a large platter and repeat until all the croquettes are coated.
- Pour the canola oil into a large heavy bottom pot and place over high heat. Heat the oil to 360°F. Once there, back the heat off to maintain temperature. Add the croquettes to the oil 6 at a time. Fry until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the croquettes to a large plate lined with paper towel to drain. Keep warm in a 150°F oven until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining croquettes.
- Place the ricotta, the remaining garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over top of the ricotta mixture and set aside.
- Spoon the ricotta mixture onto a plate and spread with the back of a spoon to create a relatively even layer. Arrange 4 croquettes on top of the ricotta and top with pickled shallots and pea shoots. Serve immediately.