Monday, August 31, 2015

Sheer Misery - Don't Try This At Home (Clam Croquettes)

A long, long time ago, when I was young and worked two jobs and went to night school in Brooklyn, I wore Sheer Energy pantyhose to help my overworked legs. I still don't know how I did it back then - eighty hours a week, half of those on my feet - but as I say, I was young and except for heart palpitations, morbid obesity and high cholesterol, a reasonably healthy individual. These days I am old and decrepit and I haven't worn pantyhose since March 2, 2015, but if I did, they would likely be called Sheer Misery, and would not help me one whit. I have reached the point where I believe I am beyond help.

Not a great harvest today

The Clam Croquettes are also beyond help, I regret to report to my cooking audience, whoever you might be.  I suspect that the texture of the flaked tuna fish in the original recipe helped to keep the mixture from disintegrating in the frying pan.  As it is, all but one of the nine croquettes dissolved, and in giving up their corporeal existence released a great deal of liquid to the pan. The resultant splattering was intense and probably created some kind of record for spitting distance by a hot liquid. But the greatest disappointment is not that I expect to have to still be cleaning up at midnight, or that I am going to have blisters and welts all over my arms from being pelted by hot oil drops. Rather, I am aggravated about the croquette fail because the mixture was so delicious, so blissfully seasoned and balanced, that I was really looking forward to eating the damn things.  With tartar sauce and real lemon quarters to squeeze over the perfect crispness.

I have a few ideas as to what would alleviate the croquettes' tendency to give up the ghost upon being immersed in 350 degree oil.  Me and my ideas, right?  I'm not sure if or when I'll get around to trying them, as The Nero Wolfe Cookbook with its two different clam cake recipes is arriving tomorrow, but here they are anyway; first, I would advise very strongly NOT to try the original recipe at home.  I can assure you there is going to be a horrid mess and the real possibility of injury from flying canola oil.  With the changes I'm considering - well, I would still hold off until I get a chance to try them, here in the Inspiration Nation Kissimmee Test Kitchen.  Really, I'm quite serious, as I do not want anyone to get hurt.

2-6.5 oz. cans chopped clams, drained, clam juice retained
4 tablespoons (half stick) butter
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) all purpose flour
1 cup of the saved clam juice
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper

dry, unseasoned bread crumbs
kosher salt
black pepper

Prepare a roux from the butter and flour.  Add the clam juice and whisk over heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the parsley, Old Bay, chives, white pepper, black pepper, and cayenne.  Stir in the drained clams.  Place the mixture in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Prepare the breading by mixing the bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a flat dish. Heat about an inch of canola oil in a heavy skillet to 350 degrees. With a medium scoop, scoop up some of the clam mixture and drop gently into the bread crumbs.  With a fork flatten a bit and then turn the croquette over.  Repeat to ensure the croquette is well-coated in crumbs.

If I ever try these again, I'm going to add a lightly beaten egg or two to the clam mixture after it cools down a bit and also coat the croquettes by dipping them in flour, egg, and then the bread crumbs. Someday.

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