Better than Mom’s apple pie

Mom’s Beef Croquettes

Filling:
8 cups roast beef, cooked and diced
4 cups binding béchamel sauce
salt
pepper
spring onion
lemon juice
2-3 cups ritz cracker crumbs or bread crumbs

2-3 whipped eggs

* Béchamel—binding
1 cup milk
3 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup flour
1 carrot slice
1 onion slice
1-2 bay leaves
2 cloves
4-5 peppercorns
1 mace
1 egg

* Ratio: 2 cups meat to 1 cup sauce

Let milk stand for at least one hour with veggies and spices, then bring to a short simmer, strain and keep over low heat.

Melt butter with flour and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Remove from heat, pour about 1/4 cup milk in, stirring vigorously, then continue to add rest of milk while stirring. Replace over medium heat and stir while cooking until sauce thickens. Season to taste, add the egg and mix very well. Cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Croquettes: Season roast beef with salt, pepper, spring onion and lemon to taste. Mix in béchamel sauce and chill overnight.

Take a generous spoonful and use hands to form an oversized egg-shaped, cylindrical croquette. Roll croquette in crumbs, then egg, then crumbs. Chill overnight before cooking or freeze.

Deep fry in peanut oil at 350° until golden brown. If croquettes are frozen, thaw partially, not entirely before cooking—about 2-3 hours. Some folks might enjoy a rich, brown gravy spooned over the croquettes; my family preferred drizzling with freshly squeezed lemon juice while piping hot.

Makes 36-48 croquettes; frozen croquettes keep quite well in freezer bags.

I have no idea if this is an “original” American recipe. But this was my, by request, traditional birthday dinner. I always thought I was pretty smart because it meant the family got to have roast beef one night and then beef croquettes made from the left over roast another night. My mother made this dish for me for many years. She’s American, so I figure that makes this an American dish.

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Broccoli Pasticcio

Filling:
2-3 cups broccoli florets
4 tbsp butter
4 eggs
salt (to taste)
½ cup grated reggiano parmesan (more or less; according to taste)
diced red bell pepper (optional; for color & sweetness)

Variations: green beans & sweet onion; oysters & spinach; asparagus & red bell pepper; mix and match your favorite flavors.

Crust:
¼ cup bread crumbs (homemade with good bread = better crust)
6-8in. springform (or soufflé) pan

Preheat oven to 375°. Sauté broccoli (and other veggies, if using) in 3 tbsp. butter over medium high heat & season with salt to taste. The idea here is to lightly pre-cook (soften); don’t overcook. Set aside to cool.

Lightly beat eggs in large mixing bowl, then fold in parmesan. Smear remaining butter in springform pan and coat with bread crumbs. Tap out excess crumbs.

Prepare béchamel sauce. Add broccoli to eggs and fold together. Add ½ cup béchamel and fold in, then add remaining béchamel, fold well and pour into springform pan. (If you add all of the sauce at once, the heat will curdle the eggs.) Sprinkle extra parmesan on top.

Bake for 45 minutes until golden on top. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Béchamel Sauce:
1½ cups milk
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
salt (to taste)
white (or black) pepper (to taste)
nutmeg (grated to taste; a little goes a long way)

Making a roux:
Heat milk over low heat in small pot; don’t let it burn. Melt butter over low to medium low heat in separate pot, add flour when butter begins to bubble, stirring briskly with a whisk. Cook 4-5 minutes. Do not let flour brown.

Add hot milk to roux in small amounts, about half a cup at a time, stirring (whisking) briskly until all milk has been incorporated. Place over medium low to medium heat, add salt and cook while stirring until sauce is as dense as thick cream. If it seems too thick, add a little more hot milk (or water) at a time; stirring until it has the right consistency. It should smoothly coat a wooden spoon; not completely running off, nor sticking.

Some thoughts about rouxs (for the novice cook):
Mastering how to make a roux is a wonderfully versatile technique for making many kinds of sauces (or gravies)…from this white, creamy béchamel sauce to the other spectrum…a deep brown and nutty tasting Cajun roux.

Whether it’s a white sauce or a brown sauce, the key is not to burn the flour. For white sauces, you only want to cook the roux enough so that the sauce doesn’t taste like flour. For brown sauces, you want to brown, not burn the flour, to get the color and that nutty flavor. The best technique for controlling heat is simply to lift the pot or pan off and continue whisking until the bubbling subsides somewhat and then replace over heat.

This recipe may feel a little challenging the first time around, but it’s actually pretty easy once you are comfortable making the roux.

Cook with love! Eat with family & friends! Hope you enjoy!