I’m writing from a funky-hip cafe in the heart of New Orleans, where I’m hunkered for a week of working remotely while Bobby runs Contentment Camping’s last gig of the season at Voodoo Music and Arts Experience. Imagine a small camp of wistful safari tents, fully furnished with comfortable beds and artistic flair – this is the experience he helps create for VIP guests to enjoy their weekend and “camp without roughing it.” This has also – graciously – been my home for the weekend, and the source of many sinful, Southern bites: fresh crackling (fried pork skins), blue-cheese barbecued oysters, twelve-hour smoked brisket, Texas Coast cocktails (dirty vodka martinis with pickled okra juice – no olives!) and gumbo galore. After having joined Bobby at the first event of the season at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, I feel fortunate to come full circle with his last. Though the music at Voodoo paled in comparison to Bonnaroo, the food was a mighty notch higher. Let’s just say I have a head start on the winter insulation I will surely need back home.

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They say this city is hardly the south of the U.S., but the northernmost Caribbean city bursting with colorful facades, breezy palms and a pace of life that begs us northeasters to relax and soak up the sunshine. I’m doing just that, and soaking up a lot more grease and glory too! Forthcoming are posts of my local culinations (culinary + exploration), but to start off the week I want to share a recipe that reminds me of the boudin balls on every menu: risotto croquettes.

Boudin balls are typically a combination of rice and pork or seafood mashed together with cajun seasoning and fried to crispy, rotund perfection. Croquettes are in the same family, though there is no strict adherence to meat, seafood or cajun spices. Rather, they are the perfect way to use up leftover rice or risotto that has any prior seasoning or additions – or add new ones as you craft and cook them up like these Asparagus Croquettes or Mushroom and Leek Croquettes.

Like Lewis, I love the meditative motion of forming croquettes, big or small for hearty side servings or pre-dinner morsels. I love the creative liberties I can take with the flavors, making this basic recipe a jumping ground for novel and mouthwatering sensations. Without further adieu, dish them up tonight or make a batch to freeze for this weekend’s party or potluck.

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Homemade Bread Crumbs

I always like to find ways to recycle food waste and save money. Homemade bread crumbs are a perfect example, and easy beyond belief. We all find ourselves with stale bread ends, that would break a wayward tooth. Next time, save them. You can grate your bread with a classic grater, holding the grater over a bowl to collect the crumbs. Or, you can break up the bread into smaller pieces and put it in a Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, empty wine bottle or canned vegeatbles from the pantry, bash the bread on a hard service – it will break into crumbs and already be stored in a bag for you! You can freeze bread crumbs indefinitely. When using, toss them with a splash of olive oil and herbs or spices, and toast them for about 5 minutes to bring out the flavor and warm the temperature.
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Butternut Squash Risotto Croquettes (Gluten-Free)

Prep Time: 18 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 32 croquettes

This is a fun recipe to make with the kids! You can also freeze uncooked croquettes in a Ziploc bag for up to three months. Remove as much air from the bag as possible to prevent freezer burn. Make gluten-free croquettes with all-purpose flour and almond flour for an equally satisfying and crispy coating. For a healthier twist, bake your croquettes instead of frying.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups leftover risotto
  • 1 cup parsley, freshly chopped
  • 1 cup Mozzarella, freshly grated
  • 1-2 cups all-purpose flour (sub with gluten-free flour)
  • 1-2 cups bread crumbs (sub with almond flour)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. For baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix the risotto and parsley in a large bow, along with any additions, seasoning and spices you desire. I like to add cheese so they are melty and comforting.
  3. Prepare your dredging station. (Dredging is the process of coating wet food with dry ingredients prior to cooking). Set up two plates and a bowl in a buffet on a counter surface. On one plate spread a thin, even layer of flour. On a second plate spread a thin, even layer of bread crumbs of almond flour. In a bowl, beat together 2 eggs. Set out a large plate or tray for the croquettes to rest before cooking.
  4. Begin forming your croquettes: using the palms of your hands, shape about 4 tablespoons of risotto into a ball. Roll the ball in the flour, then dip and coat the ball in the egg mixture and finally roll the ball in the bread crumbs or almond flour. Line the croquettes on a plate or baking sheet until you have use all of the risotto. (You will likely need to replenish the flour, almond flour and eggs at some point).
  5. At this point, freeze any croquettes you will not be using. (When you are ready to use frozen croquettes, reheat them in the oven for about 18 minutes or in a frying pan until thoroughly warmed through.)
  6. For baking, line the croquettes on a baking sheet and bake for about 18 minutes, or until warmed through and toasted in color on the outside.
  7. For frying, heat the olive oil slowly over medium-low in a frying pan. (I like to use olive oil because it's healthier. I am "searing" the croquettes more than frying them). When the oil is hot, add the croquettes about 3-5 at a time, turning them repeatedly with tongs to prevent the coating from burning. They will be done when they are toasted all around. Place them on a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven until serving - the oven can be at about 300 degrees.

Notes

Allergens: dairy, eggs, wheat

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