Party Ready Croquettes!

Party Ready Croquettes!

One of my favorite appys on the menu at my local Cuban restaurant is the lightly breaded, fried béchamel fritter platter; it’s studded with salty, smoked ham called Croquetas de jamón. Unlike their Southern cousin the hush puppy, these little delicacies are way too delicious to give to the dog. These croquettes are terrific with a glass of dry white wine or with a beer during the big game!

They are easier to make than you think and, better yet, you can prepare them all the way to the frying stage, then freeze them for later use. In my catering days, we used to have whole days dedicated to making ahead and freezable appys, so that we could “grab and go” on the way to client parties.

Start by making a rich white custardy béchamel sauce. Add some smoked ham, and then chill the mixture in the fridge. Mold the chilled mixture into small cylinders and then bread them. Before serving, heat up the oil and fry them to a golden brown. It only takes a minute or two. The crunchy outside leads to a melty inside. Add a spicy sauce, and you have an appy everyone will enjoy.


Shhh! I snuck a few veggies in these fab meatballs...

Traditional fried croquette with glass of beer on a wooden table.

Croquetas de Jamón

Serves a crowd

45 Minute Cuisine plus chilling

If you are looking for a make-ahead appy that freezes well, you have come to the right place! These creamy croquettes are simple to make and delicious to eat.

8 ounces smoked ham

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground oregano

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons butter

½ small yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 cup milk, room temperature

1 tablespoon dry sherry

4 ounces manchego cheese

Spicy aioli sauce

Place the ham in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to finely dice.

Whisk together the flour, parsley, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and nutmeg.

Cook the onion in the butter, in a deep saucepot over medium-high heat until soft, about 2 minutes. Whisk the flour into the butter and onions and cook until bubbly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk and sherry. Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cheese until thoroughly melted. Stir in the diced ham. Pour this béchamel into a baking dish and chill for at least four hours.

To form the croquettes, use a 1-inch ice cream scoop to form a ball of béchamel. Form this ball into a small cylinder and place it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue until all the béchamel is used. Transfer the cylinders to the refrigerator. Make a dipping station by whisking together two large eggs in a shallow bowl. Pour bread crumbs into a second bowl. Use a spoon to gently roll 1 cylinder in the beaten egg. Then roll in bread crumbs and place them back onto the baking sheet. Chill (or freeze) until you are ready to fry the croquettes.

Heat vegetable oil in a fryer, or deep pot to 375°degrees. Make sure that you use only enough oil to come ⅓ up the side of the pot, as the oil will bubble up when you fry the croquettes. Place several croquettes into the hot oil. Use a slotted spoon to gently turn the croquettes in the oil. Cook until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the croquettes to a paper towel-lined baking dish. Serve with a spicy aioli sauce.

Cook’s Tip

You can make a spicy aioli sauce by combining mayonnaise with a drizzle of hot adobo sauce. Simpler still, try some of the new Marzetti Simply Dressed salad dressings in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Their Siracha Ranch is perfect for these croquettes.

Game Day Dip!

Game Day Dip!

I’m not sure if I love football because of the game or the food. After being a Miami Dolphin fan for over 40 years, it’s safe to say a majority of these past seasons, the football food has been the highpoint!

You know I love Buffalo wings, mostly because I’m addicted to hot sauce! You’ve seen my recipes for wings and recently for Sweet Potato Fries with Buffalo Chicken. But, sometimes, you need a hot dip, and you need it now! This recipe fills the bill. There are tons of versions of Hot Buffalo Wing Dip, so use this as a guideline to make the one you like best. The ingredients that make this dip so perfect for me is Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. There’s just something about this that is super spicy but not hurtful! I use deli chicken as a shortcut, but you can use leftover chicken if you have it. Boar’s Head has a Blazing Buffalo chicken that just adds a little bit of somethin’ somethin’ to the dip, and Fritos corn chips bring the whole experience to critical addiction levels!

Look at all these fixins going into the dip. YUM! Now you’re ready to make this awesome recipe. GOOOOOOOOO Dolphins!

Hot Buffalo Wing Dip

Serves a Crowd

15 Minute Cuisine

Ok. There are about a hundred versions of this dip, but the one thing they all have in common is that the end result is gooey, Buffalo spiced and incredibly addicting!

2 tablespoons butter

4 ounces spicy deli chicken (I like Publix Blazing Buffalo Chicken breast), diced

1 small white onion, peeled and diced

4 celery ribs, sliced thin

2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese

4 ounces, grated sharp cheddar cheese, 1 cup

4 ounces hot pepper sauce (Frank’s Red Hot is my choice!!), more if you are crazy

Corn chips for dipping (Fritos or Scoops are the best)

Heat the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken, onion and celery ribs to the pan. Cook until the veggies are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cream cheese to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and stir to soften. Add the cheddar cheese and hot pepper sauce. Keep stirring until everything is melted together.

Cook’s Tip

At this point you are ready to dig in. However, you can pour the dip into a baking dish and keep warm in the oven until kick off.



Sweet Potato Fries with Crispy Buffalo Chicken, topped with Blue Cheese Gravy. Sweet Potato Fries with Crispy Buffalo Chicken, topped with Blue Cheese Gravy.

Perusing the menu at my favorite North Carolina pub, I saw a dish called “Elevation Fries”. Elevation – because we’re sitting atop an Appalachian mountain. But, when I started thinking about it, the name really speaks to elevating an American staple … the fry!

There’s a story here! There is a school of thought that claims the origin of the fried potato was from Belgium, where poor fishermen served pieces of sautéed potato alongside small portions of fresh caught fish.

The French, most haughtily claim the fry as their invention, noting that their potato spears were served from vendors for street fare, pre-dating the French Revolution. Pommes frites anyone?

I munched on traditional potatas bravas in Spain. These are diced bits of potato, flash fried and tossed in a hot, spicy sauce that needs some taming. This is where the tapas inspired cocktails come into play!

Whether they originate from Belgium, France, or Spain, the western fry has evolved from a spear for dipping in ketchup, to a dish all its own.

You may have heard of a dish called “poutine”. It involves fries, gravy and cheese curds. Don’t laugh, Canadians live for this. If you are in North Jersey, you take poutine to the next level creating Disco Fries. Look at these guys waiting near the deep fryer!

This version starts by covering steak fries with cheese sauce and topping that with brown gravy. *Although others claim melting mozzarella cheese is a must to be an authentic Jersey fry. I created two sauces (well, 1 Hot Sauce concoction, 1 gravy) that elevate these buffalo chicken sweet potato fries to a new level. See them pictured below!

This hot sauce is a celery, garlic & red wine vinegar infused delight! This hot sauce is a celery, garlic & red wine vinegar infused delight! Blue Cheese Gravy -- SO GOOD! Blue Cheese Gravy — SO GOOD!

If you are traveling anywhere in the good ol’ U S of A, you might just pop into a Cook Out. This is a chain of fast food restaurants, well known for their many shades of shakes. But, in my humble, personal opinion these guys have the best darn chili-cheese fries in the country! Served from a brown paper bag, with just enough grease, hot cheese sauce and chili gravy to satisfy your craving for months and months, you just can’t beat them!

Now where the heck am I going with all of this, and why is your tummy growling? Well, dear fellow foodies. I have created the ultimate in poutine/chili-cheese/disco fry dishes. I have taken the sauced fry, and mated it with this buffalo chicken:

This Buffalo Chicken just screams for sauce! This Buffalo Chicken just screams for sauce!

I’m just in in time for football pre-season tailgating! Ladies and gents, I give you my recipe for Sweet Potato Fries with Crispy Buffalo Chicken, topped with Blue Cheese Gravy. You’re going to love it!

Sweet Potato Fries with Crispy Buffalo Chicken

Covered in Blue Cheese Gravy

Serves a crowd

45 Minute Cuisine

Poutine meets Disco fries and brings along Buffalo wing flavor in this elevated French fry dish.

For fries:

3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch thick spears

Oil for frying

Kosher salt

For blue cheese dressing:

4 tablespoons butter, ¼ cup

¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon onion powder

2 ounces Blue cheese, crumbled, about ½ cup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

For chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil

For hot sauce:

4 tablespoons butter, ¼ cup

2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 1 tablespoon

1 (5-ounce) bottle hot sauce (I used Frank’s Original Hot Sauce)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 celery ribs, thinly sliced

Soak the sweet potato spears in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Heat enough oil to come 1/3 up the ide of a deep pot to 325°. (Use a candy thermometer for this). Cook the fries in the oil until they just begin to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fries to a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Pat dry and cover with clean paper towels until ready to assemble the dish.

Place 4 tablespoons butter into a sauté pan over medium high heat. When the butter is melted, whisk in the flour. Cook the butter and flour until it bubbles. It will begin to color. Continue cooking until golden brown, about 8 minutes total. Slowly whisk in the milk. Reduce the heat to medium. Season with onion powder, ½ teaspoon coarse salt and white pepper. Continue cooking until the sauce becomes think and gravy-like. Turn off the heat and stir in the blue cheese. It’s okay if the gravy is not smooth. (The blue cheese crumbles resemble cheese curds like in the real deal poutine). Cover the gravy with aluminum foil to keep it warm.

Season the chicken breasts with ½ teaspoon coarse salt and black pepper. Put the bread crumbs onto a plate. Dredge the breasts in the bread crumbs until coated. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Cook the breasts in the oil, turning once until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 8 minutes total cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a plate to rest.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in the same pan that you used for the chicken, over medium low heat. When melted, add the garlic and pour in the hot sauce. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes. Place the chicken breast back into the pan and coat with the sauce. Simmer the sauced chicken over low heat while you finish the fries.

Fire up the oil to 375°. Fry the potatoes for a second time. The first time you cook them the middle of the fry is cooked. The second time you fry, the outside crisps. Cook until the fries are golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined baking sheet and season with salt.

Assemble the dish by removing the chicken from the pan and slicing into thin strips. Lay the fries onto a platter. Top with slices of chicken. Pour the blue cheese gravy over the top. Drizzle some of the hot sauce over the gravy. Garnish with thin slices of celery.