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Will it Croqueta? Miami pushes the limits of a favorite snack.

MIAMI – Breakfast from a bakery here starts with strong coffees and a cigar-shaped favorite. These golden appetizers run out faster than cakes at parties. And every week, restaurants roll out thousands of them.

Croquetas are as popular as Cuban sandwiches. They are eaten at any time, as a snack, main party or breakfast. Made with béchamel and minced ham, chicken or fish, these bite-sized cylinders are rolled in breadcrumbs, then deep-fried.

“Something as small as croquetas is such a cultural movement,” says Jonathan Andrade, who is in charge of producing croquetas for the restaurant. Islas Canarias and the Croqueta County brand, often regarded by fans as the “gold standard” of classic foods.

While Spanish and Cuban immigrants brought croqueta to Miami, chefs today are taking the croqueta’s basic framework and adapting it to reflect the county’s growing cultural diversity. So many bakeries and restaurants now have a remarkable croqueta – with creative flavors like Ham, Bacon and Goudaor short ribs – it’s hard to list them all.

Croquetas are also a symbol of local heritage. They are included T-shirtis held at an annual festival and is popular across the social media. Croquetas is one of the brands of Cuban food, a mark of celebration and a favorite takeaway amid the hustle and bustle of the area. Croquetas are respected in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, so much so that the counties even claim Croqueta’s Day in 2020.

Islas Canarias, named after the Canary Islands where Andrade’s great-grandparents live, was opened by his grandparents in 1977. Over the decades, the restaurant has perfected the recipe from Andrade’s great-grandmother.

But when his sister, Eileen Andrade, traveled to South Korea in 2013 and learned about its cuisine, it opened up a world of potential. At her other restaurants, Finka and Tap . board, Amelia’s 1931 and Barbakoa by FinkaThe siblings experimented with flavors like pork mojo kimchi, shrimp jambalaya, buffalo cauliflower and an Elena Ruz sandwich.

“That opened up an avenue to think outside the box and be creative,” says Andrade.

María José Sevilla, author of the book “Deliciso: Culinary History in Spain. “A similar thing was created in 17th century France in the shape of a small ball and filled with common ingredients. Later in the 19th century, béchamel was added, and the dish became known as croquettes. They had a form similar to what we know today, and recipes for them began to be written down and published.

Croquetas arrived in Spain in the 19th century, and eventually spread to its colonies such as Cuba. And with the availability of ingredients over time, it became a go-to food for the rich and worked for the poor in the 20th century. Sevilla says this is where croqueta started to flourish. strong because of its use of leftovers.

Over the past 20 years, she says, Spanish chefs have made innovations similar to recent ones in Miami, taking their family recipes and refining them to create pies. Light and crispy croquetas that almost melt in your mouth.

“It has become one of the most fashionable and one of the most popular dishes in Spain,” said Ms. “At the end of the day, these beautiful dishes will grow in the hands of chefs, home cooks. They are making the most varied and distinctive croquetas. “

Miami’s first croqueta bar, Dos Croquetas, which opened in 2019. The menu includes classic flavors like ham and chicken, along with matching sauces, but staff encourage customers to try newer versions like creamy spinach, sandwiches bacon, buffalo chicken or 305 takes a lot of work. , with picadillo and maduros, took eight hours to make. The croqueta medianoche (which inspired Mr. Andrade to make his version of the Elena Ruz sandwich) combines all the elements of the sandwich, like pork and pickles, in every bite.

“Our goal is to shift people away from traditional flavors,” says Alec Fernandez, who estimates they sell about 17,000 croquetas a week. “It was respect in the end to make this classic piece, while modernizing and evolving the way people perceive a croqueta.”

Mr. Fernandez’s aunt Vicky Carballo, who primarily develops Dos Croquetas products, said her focus is on surprising depth of flavor, as “we’re entering the market with croquetas in every corner. ”

Other places, like Cuban Vegetarian, which opens in 2020, is responding to demand for croquetas to accommodate the vegan lifestyle. Lismeilyn Machado, who learned to make croquetas with her family in Cuba, sells about 4,000 croquetas a week with her husband, Steven Rodriguez, from their small restaurant. Little by little, she replaces each of her croquetas’ most important ingredients with vegan alternatives like cashew ice cream and soy ham. The garbanzo croqueta is made with chickpeas and tapioca to cater to those with food allergies.

At first, they rolled each croqueta by hand. But after only six months, the demand was so high that they got a machine to help automate the rolling and coating process.

“As long as you put Cuban spices in it, it tastes good,” says Ms. Machado.

In Miami, the easiest way to see croqueta’s creativity is at a contest held in December, the Croqueta Palooza. In 2014, its first year, “it was like a giant cold-meat croqueta festival,” said Sef Gonzalez, the festival’s head, who also runs a blog called Burger Beast. But over the years, offerings have become more and more innovative.

“The chefs go there with the mindset of ‘I’ll order my best croqueta,’ but everyone else goes, and they want to show off what they can do with croqueta,” he says.

Some chefs cite Croqueta Palooza as the reason to pioneer these new flavors. “It’s good to have healthy competition,” said Andrade of Islas Canarias.

No one has pushed the limits of croqueta like Breadman Miami, which serves mini croquetas on a vanilla-covered bun. Andy Herrera, the owner of the bakery, was inspired by a piece of cake at a party being touched by a croqueta. He thinks the sweet, savory and smoky flavors go well, and when a customer asked him to make a different cake, “the croqueta was born.” In addition to selling around 1,200 croquetas a day, the bakery makes at least three of these croquets a day. The bakery even did croqueta and quinceañera weddings.

“The only thing I can tell you is that after owning a bakery, it’s amazing how many croquetas people eat,” he said. “It’s pretty spectacular.”

Cooking recipe: Ham Croquetas

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/dining/miami-croquetas.html Will it Croqueta? Miami pushes the limits of a favorite snack.

Fry Electronics Team

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