Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Having a ball with food.

February 12

The National Croquet League in Philadelphia had the wit to include croquettes at their annual awards banquet on this day in 1880. There appears to be an obvious assumption behind this catering decision - that croquettes are so called because they resemble a croquet ball (or vice-versa), but like so many obvious assumptions, this one is completely wrong.

Croquet gets its name from one of the other three essential pieces of equipment in the game – the mallet - which, if you squint at it the right way, could be mistaken for a gigantic crochet hook, which if you squint at it (in French) through a magnifying glass, does slightly resemble a croche, or shepherd’s crook. Funny, how language works, isnt it? A lawn game that became terribly fashionable in the mid-nineteenth century is linguistically related to Granny’s knee rugs and to the good souls who tend the animals that give us Roquefort and chèvre.

A 'Croquette' - the edible ‘compound made of delicious Stuff'd Meat, some of the bigness of an Egg, and others of a Walnut’ – has been around for longer – since at least the very early eighteenth century. It also claims a French heritage (which you probably guessed from the pretentious ‘- ette’ on the end), but this word comes from the verb croquer, meaning 'to crackle under the teeth, to crunch'. The actual material from which the croquette is made is immaterial – almost anything will do to provide a base for its singular virtue – the one which gave it its name – the crisp, crackly, crunchy, shell. There is no culinary secret to this shell – all the base needs is a good crumb coating and a good deep frying.

We have had a recipe for sweetbread croquettes in a previous story, so here are a couple of other suggestions for the supporting framework for that crisp, crackly, crunchy shell.

Sweet Potato Croquettes.
Boil, peel and mash six large sweet potatoes; season with salt, a tablespoon of butter, one of sugar and a little pepper. When cold, mold into croquettes, dip into beaten egg, then into finely rolled bread crumbs, and fry brown in hot fat.
Practical Vegetarian Cookery, 1897

Veal Croquettes.
2 cups chopped cold cooked veal
Few grains cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
Few drops onion juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Yolk 1 egg
1 cup thick sauce made of White Soup Stock. Mix ingredients in order given. Cool, shape, crumb, and fry same as other croquettes.
Fannie Merritt. 1918.The Boston Cooking School Cookbook.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Time for parents.

Quotation for the Day …

To Adam and Eve: "You first parents of the human race ... who ruined yourself for an apple, what might you have done for a truffled turkey?"
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)

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