May 5th is a special day in Canadian and European history. On this day, we remember the citizens of the Netherlands that were under Nazi occupation during World War II and recognize the brave Canadian soldiers that fought for their freedom. September 1944 to April 1945, the First Canadian Army battled German forces on the Scheldt estuary, opening the port of Antwerp for Allied use. The Canadian soldiers expelled the Germans from northwestern Netherlands, allowing food and supplies through for the desperate men, women and children of Holland, ending the Nazi oppression.
To commemorate this day, I wanted to post a recipe for Dutch croquettes, given to me by the Dankmeyer family, who invited me into their home to learn the art of making this traditional treat, still popular in Holland today.
A Dutch croquette is a roll that is usually filled with ground meat and mixed with a flavourful bechamel sauce...the meat and sauce mixture is then chilled, rolled into logs, dipped into breadcrumbs, then into beaten egg whites...the croquettes are rolled in breadcrumbs once again and fried until golden brown. These delicacies can be eaten as a snack or a meal with fresh bread and mustard for dipping...delicious! When my friend Lesley invited me to go along with her and her fiance (Rick) to his parent's house to make croquettes, I did what any other food loving person would do...I jumped at the chance to be taught by the best!
Rick's father Bob, was born in Rijswijk, Holland where he went to trade school and apprenticed as a baker before joining the Dutch Army and serving in the Air force. In 1954, after his required two years service, the 22 year old set out by plane for Canada, landing in Montreal, then travelling to Toronto with nothing but $30 dollars in his pocket, eager to make a better life in his new country.
Rick's mother was born in Goirle, Holland. In 1953, Philomena, along with her sisters and Mother, set out on a boat destined for Whitby, Ontario to meet her father who had arrived here first to find work and a home. Bob and Philomena met at a Dutch dance, later married in Toronto, started a family and moved several times within Ontario and Quebec for Bob's job as a manager overseeing several branches of a large bakery. The couple finally set down roots in Port Hope when they took over the "Happy Home" bakery in 1973, which they successfully ran as a family business for 14 years. You will notice that after all of their years of marriage, they seem to live up to their bakeshop's name "Happy Home".
Recipe for Dutch Croquettes (with photo directions to follow)
*note...this recipe takes 2 days to make as the filling needs to set up overnight in the fridge, until it reaches a nice rolling consistency....but it is well worth the time and effort!
Roast beef remains (about 2-3 lbs.) roasted in the oven, reserving the pan juices.
2 beef bouillon cubes ('Maggi" brand...found in the international section of the grocery store)
3 bay leaves
1 bag "Honig voor vleesbouillon" (found in a Dutch store or possibly the international section of the grocery store)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
Approx. 12 cups of water (covering the meat)
The reserved juices from the roast.
...In a large stock pot, add all of the ingredients and bring to a boil...reduce heat to medium/low and simmer for approximately 2-3 hours. Refrigerate until ready to use.
This is one of their sons (Rick), helping his Mom separate the meat from the homemade bouillon, (just one of the key ingredients for the croquettes) made from a leftover prime rib roast for the filling.
The meat is separated from the bones and fat...
..then placed in a food processor or blender and ground to a nice consistency...set aside.
For the Filling
1-1/2 cups of butter or margarine
3 cups of all purpose flour
7-1/2 cups of bouillon
salt and pepper to taste
a few shakes of "Maggi" Dutch seasoning (found in the international section of the grocery store)
In a medium saucepan, bring the bouillon to a boil...in a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter and gradually add in the flour, a little bit at a time, stirring constantly until a thick paste forms. Gradually add in the hot bouillon, again whisking vigorously (you don't want lumps in your sauce), creating a roux with the consistency of pourable yogurt. Add in the salt, pepper and "Maggi" seasoning to taste. Stir in the ground meat, transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight (make sure the wrap is directly on top of filling so it does not form a skin).
Rick learning the ropes under his Dad's watchful eye as he melts the butter for the sauce.
The flour is gradually sprinkled into the melted butter, then whisked...
...as the rest of the flour is added and a thick paste is formed...boil the bouillon while you make the
Gradually ladle the hot bouillon into the paste, stirring vigorously to avoid lumps...continue until all of the bouillon is added to the sauce.
Keep whisking over medium/low heat...
...until a consistency of pourable yogurt is reached.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and "Maggi" Dutch seasoning.
The chefs taste testing the sauce for the filling...add a bit more seasoning if desired.
Let cool for about 5-10 minutes, then stir in the ground meat...
...transfer to a large bowl,
...then, place plastic wrap directly on the top of filling, so that a skin does not form and store in the refrigerator overnight until thick. These are the hands of a hard working lady that raised a large family of boys, ran a household full of boys and worked at the family business along side her husband.
Rolling and Frying the Croquettes
you will need a pan of breadcrumbs (for rolling)
a cutting board with additional breadcrumbs sprinkled over top (also for rolling)
a bowl of beaten egg whites (about 8 egg whites)
an ice cream scoop (to scoop out even amounts of filling for uniform croquettes)
a deep fat fryer
oil or shortening for frying
paper towels to absorb the grease
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out level scoops of cold filling (I just used the word "scoop" 3 times in one sentence!)...place balls of filling into the pan of breadcrumbs and gently toss to coat. Roll each scoop into a ball, then roll it into a log shape on the cutting board of bread crumbs..repeat until all of the filling has been rolled. Dip the logs in beaten egg whites (allowing the excess drip off)...carefully roll again in breadcrumbs. Heat oil to about 325-350 degrees F...then fry the logs in batches until all are fried. Drain on paper towels then fry croquettes and second time (this second frying creates a crunchy outer coating)...drain again on paper towels. Serve hot.
Scoop out a level ice cream scoop of cold filling and place balls into the pan of bread crumbs...gently toss to coat.
Roll into a ball...these hands have seen a lot of rolling in all of his years as a professional baker!
...roll into a log on the cutting board coated with breadcrumbs,
...then gently tap the ends, to create a uniform log.
Lesley, Rick and Isabel taking over the rolling assembly line...
...then I jumped into the mix...they can't have all of the glory since I'm a bit of a spotlight hog! Once all of the logs have been coated in breadcrumbs, carefully dip each log into beaten egg whites (letting the excess drip off) and gently re-roll in the breadcrumbs again...set aside while you heat shortening or oil in a deep fat fryer to about 325-350 degrees F.
Once the oil is up to temperature, fry the croquettes in batches, draining them on paper towels...fry a second time allowing the oil to come back up to the correct temperature between batches. Frying the croquettes twice, creates a crispy outer coating.
The croquettes are best served hot and are excellent with a nice crusty piece of bread,
...but most of all, excellent to share with friends along with good conversation.
Isabel's first encounter with a croquette and I believe Bob is waiting with bated breathe for her reaction...she loved them!
*Note...croquettes may be frozen then reheated in the oven...heating in the microwave is not recommended as they turn out soggy.
*recipe makes about 40 croquettes
Thank you to Bob and Philomena Dankmeyer, Rick Dankmeyer and Lesley Davis for inviting Isabel and me to share your family recipe! We had a fantastic lunch with great people!