I am on a roll with recipes because my daughter and her husband and their darling little ones are coming to visit for five days. I have more food in the house than we could eat in two weeks, but I’m ready for them! Besides bananas, grapes, a persimmon (thank you, Jerry!), banana muffins, coleslaw in a jar, salad fixings, bracciole, manicotti and numerous other things, I now also have a pile of creamy rice croquettes ready to reheat in the oven one of these evenings.
If you like mac and cheese, if you count it as a comfort food, if you enjoy the creamy cheese sauce complementing the texture of the pasta, get ready for a variation that adds a little crunch and a little spice. These croquettes use rice instead of pasta, and are bound up in a cheddar cheese sauce that’s flavored with paprika, formed into a patty and pan-fried.
The recipe is another one from my mom. Thanks, Mom! I had these as a kid and made them for my own family as well. They are another tried-and-true. Gotta love tried-and-true.
You cook up the rice, set it aside (even overnight), make a regular roux and add extra egg yolks and a bit of paprika, and stir together the rice, the creamy roux and the cheese. Quantities are as follows (I quadrupled this recipe today, so I needed my biggest bowl!)
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons flour
½ cup milk
2 eggs, separated
2 cups cooked white rice* (2/3 cup uncooked**)
½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (Cabot cheddar from Vermont gets my vote!)
¼ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup fine bread crumbs
If you have never made a roux before, you’ll be glad to learn the technique. It comes in handy for thickening so many things – not only cheese sauces, but also many gravies and soups. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium flame and add the flour.
Whisk together until it begins to pull away from the pan. Get all the flour whisked in.
Add the milk in increments, stirring carefully until the milk is thoroughly incorporated and the texture is smooth – each time you add milk, bring it to smoothness again. This is with the milk just added.
This is with the first addition of milk incorporated.
And with about 2/3 of the milk stirred in.
By the time you add all the milk, the roux is a thick, smooth liquid and looks velvety smooth like this.
Now is when you add the egg yolks. Whisk them right in. If you forget, you can add them when you are mixing the rice together with the cheese and sauce (not that anybody I know did that… this time…).
I love adding the paprika because it is such a pop of color.
Mixed in, the speckles are still pretty!
I had made my rice the day before, so it was cold in the bowl. To this I added the grated cheese.
And mixed it in.
Then I poured the sauce over the top.
And mixed it in.
To form the patties that become croquettes, I tried both with and without plastic gloves. The gloves worked better! My croquettes looked like this, but you can make yours any size or thickness that suits you.
The egg whites are for the breading process. Dredge the croquettes first with egg white, then with crumbs. I like to mix a few tablespoons of flour in with my bread crumbs. I use two forks to move the croquettes from one bowl to the next – carefully. Forks make this part a little less messy than doing it with your hands, but try not to break the croquette! (I broke one today, but someone has to taste-test and that would be me! The broken one serves this purpose very well.)
I use shallow soup bowls for the bread crumbs and egg whites.
Once breaded, the croquettes look like this.
Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in your favorite flat-bottomed frying pan. Turn on the flame and let the oil get hot for about a minute (not so hot that it’s smoking though!).
And into the pan go the patties!
I made so many croquettes today (instead of 2 cups of cooked rice, I started with 8!), I needed two pans. One was my largest copper-bottom Revere Ware that I’ve had for 30+ years. Love that pan. The other (the one you see in these photos) is cast aluminum and has been in my family since 1947. I know this because my grandfather scratched 1947 into the inside of the lid to this pan. Love this pan too.
Once you flip the croquettes, you start to want to eat them! This is when I discovered an advantage to making so many! No one will notice one more missing…
Just like mac and cheese, these rice and cheese croquettes are a main dish that’s great with a salad next to it. But unlike mac and cheese, if you make a lot like I did, you can freeze some. When you are ready for them in a few weeks, take them out, let them thaw, and reheat on a baking sheet in a 350F oven for 25 minutes. Simple, done, yummy!!
*Of course you can use any rice you like: brown, wild, whatever!
**To cook white rice, bring to a boil double the quantity of water as rice. So for one cup of rice, boil two cups of water. When the water is boiling, slowly pour the rice into the water, add a teaspoon of salt, stir to make sure none of the rice is clumping, cover, turn down to low, and set the timer for 20 minutes.