Crispy, Creamy, Cheesy Cauliflower Croquettes

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on June 22, 2015

Cauliflower_Croquettes, www.goodfoodgourmet.comWhen families tell me that they have a tough time getting their children to eat vegetables, I am usually left wondering who rules the roost at home. Children will grow into adulthood eating the foods that they’ve become accustomed to, so, if you are not providing good quality meals early on, these bad habits will be difficult to correct later on.

My parents came from the old country where family meals were prepared every day and if you didn’t want to eat, you went without. This wasn’t because they were being cruel or wanted to impose some kind of unusual punishment — rather, they invested what resources they had in the best quality food they could afford and there was very little (if any), disposable income left over. Necessity ruled the roost, and as a young kid, I knew the consequences if I passed up a  meal.

I remember visiting a Cuban family I knew many years ago, and saw firsthand their very clever five year old mastermind at work on many occasions. His mother would cook meals for the family and set the table for everyone to eat together. She would ask him if he was hungry and he always said ‘no’. The family would sit down to a leisurely dinner while the five year old sat on the couch and watched television. After dinner, the mother would put away all of the leftovers and clean up the dinner dishes. As soon as the last dish was put away, the youngest would say, ‘mom, I’m hungry’ – and without skipping a beat, the mother would put him in the car and take him to McDonald’s for his dinner. This happened almost every day. This continued into his teen years, and if it wasn’t McDonald’s it was Subway or something else. Today, that young man and his older brother are in their 20’s, grossly overweight and suffering from high cholesterol and many other ailments resulting from a poor diet. If they don’t correct their food choices, unfortunately it is only a matter of time before other illnesses begin to manifest themselves. The path to diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer will be hard to reverse if not corrected early. Their bad start in life was handed to them by their parents who refused to establish rules at home and did not bother to teach them how to make good choices.

Please don’t do this – and if you are doing this, stop it immediately.

Our nation is facing a health crisis unlike any other experienced by past generations. With the many food choices we have available to us in this country, the only person to blame for this preventable pandemic, is ourselves.

Trust me, I understand…

You might say that as a parent you have tried. You steam or lightly sauté vegetables and the kids won’t eat them. Perhaps they’ve never even tried them, but they still won’t eat them.

I get it – but this does not mean that as a parent you should give up on them. Instead think about how much fun it’s going to be coming up with a Plan B.

I remember reading a few years ago about Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld’s wife), who penned her own book called Deceptively Delicious. The book was developed out of necessity when Jessica found herself modifying high calorie meals that her children preferred, with healthier ingredients. She began to add things like squash or cauliflower puree in her macaroni and cheese and made her brownies with pureed carrots and spinach. Her children never realized it, but they were reaping the benefits of healthier alternatives.

I’m not trying to promote her book or her recipes — in fact I’ve never tried any of them. I’m simply trying to show you that you’re not alone in your quest to encourage your children to eat better.

My agenda with these croquettes mirrored Jessica’s thought process — I wanted to create something decadent, that was subtly healthier. The ultimate goal here was to create something your child would consider trying, with hopes that it might open the door to other foods they may not ordinarily eat. I’m a huge fan of cauliflower and have roasted it in the past, and have even made a really good gratin, but if your kids are still digging in their heels at the dinner table, then these tasty croquettes may be just the ticket.

Cauliflower Croquettes (makes 40-50 pieces)
1 large head of cauliflower, steamed to al dente then coarsely shredded
1 ½ packs of cream cheese (12 oz), room temperature
1 ½ -2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 ½ -2 cups parmesan, grated
zest of 2 lemons
3-4 tablespoons spicy mustard
3 tablespoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons of fresh or dried chives, finely chopped (omit if using dehydrated onion)
4 tablespoon onion powder (or use 2 tablespoon dehydrated onion + 2 tablespoons onion powder)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 ¾ cups panko crumbs to add to filling
2-3 cups panko crumbs for rolling croquettes

Clean and gently steam the cauliflower to al dente, this should take anywhere from 20-30 minutes. I prefer to steam this instead of boiling it because too much water is our enemy and will make the croquettes fall apart. Once the cauliflower has steamed, allow it to cook completely, then use the large size shredder on a box grater and shred into bite size pieces.

Next, use a fork to mash the room temp cream cheese then add in the mozzarella, grated parmesan, lemon zest, spicy mustard, dried parsley, dried chives or onion powder/dehydrated onion, garlic salt, ground pepper and 1 ¾ cups of panko crumbs. Mix everything together then add this to the shredded cauliflower and combine until it is all uniformly mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight so that mixture firms up and that the added bread crumbs absorb any lingering moisture.

Cauliflower Croquettes,

When ready to fry, begin by adding the 2 remaining cups of panko crumbs into a large plate and set aside. Use a 1.5 oz scoop and scoop out all of the cauliflower mixture onto a large plate or sheet pan. Roll each scoop of mixture into the panko crumbs. At this point, once all of the batter has been breaded, you can either begin to fry them or refrigerate them again. When you are ready to fry, add oil to a shallow sauté pan and heat the oil moderately. Add several of the breaded croquettes to the oil and fry until golden brown.

Cauliflower Croquettes,

Once they are golden brown, place them onto a paper lined plate and salt them lightly then keep them warm on a parchment lined sheet pan in the oven until ready to serve. They are perfectly crispy on the outside and so creamy and cheesy inside…a hit every time.

Cauliflower Croquettes,

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