You’ve just spent all day working, made it through several meetings via Zoom, made sure your kids logged onto their virtual classes at the right time, helped support them through e-learning and walked the dog. Oh, and just when you think you’re wrapping things up, you not only realize that dinner has to get made, but it’s virtual curriculum night for your son’s middle school. Sound familiar?
I know we’re all experiencing scenarios like this, which is why I started drinking wine during the week instead of waiting until the weekend. Haven’t studies shown that wine is healthy in moderation?
I didn’t go grocery shopping over the weekend to prepare for the week, so my fridge wasn’t very well stocked. It wasn’t our night to order out just yet, so I had to come up with something. I had lots of odds and ends on hand, and really wracked my brain trying to come up with something to make that not only utilized what I had, but something the kids would truly enjoy.
My eyes landed on the box of leftover rice from when we ordered Chinese food last week, so I decided to make that the main ingredient for dinner. I toyed around with making fried rice, but I just wasn’t inspired by that idea. Plus, I needed something more interesting to blog about.
As my little grey cells chugged along, I slowly started to put two and two together and came up with the idea of making croquettes. Croquettes are delicious breaded and deep fried fritters typically consisting of ham or chicken that are held together using mashed potatoes or béchamel, but you can add anything you like to a croquette, which makes them extremely versatile and leftover friendly.
I used the following items in my croquettes, because this is what I happened to have on hand, but here are some alternative ideas. Remember, this recipe is 100% customizable, so feel free to be creative. Just make sure you stay away from adding ingredients that are too wet. This will interfere with the binding agents.
Ground Beef: Sub in any other type of ground meat here. Mexican chorizo would be excellent as well as ground turkey or pork. You can even use bacon! Cut it into thin slices, and cook in a sauté pan until crispy. Drain the fat, saving it for another day.
Mushrooms: Sub in any other vegetable, just be sure it’s roughly chopped. You can also stir some dark, leafy greens into the cooked ground beef. Cook until wilted and all of the moisture has been evaporated.
Cheese: Take this as an opportunity to use up all of the odds and ends in your cheese drawer. Using a hard cheese like parmesan is great, but be sure to work in some melty cheese, too.
Parsley: Feel free to add any fresh herbs you like! Dill, chives or basil would be great. If you go with dill, reduce the amount because it can be overpowering.
I enlisted the help of my son to form and deep fry the croquettes, which made the process go a lot faster. He even said it was a lot of fun! This was helpful, so I could keep one eye on the middle school curriculum night presentation and another eye on making dinner.
Cheesy Rice and Ground Beef Croquettes
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: About 2 dozen
Active time: 45 minutes
Start to finish: 45 minutes
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 pound ground beef or other ground meat of your choice
1/2 pound mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying
3 cups leftover, cooked rice
1 1/2 cups grated cheese of your choice
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or other fresh herbs of your choice, rough chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, well beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
All-purpose flour or breadcrumbs for coating
Marinara sauce for dipping, warmed
1. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat, and add the grapeseed oil. Cook the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon, until no longer pink.
2. Add the mushrooms, and continue to cook until softened and any moisture has evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes. If there’s a lot of excess fat in the pan, drain it off.
3. Stir in the chili powder, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°.
5. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pot until it reaches 365° on a deep fry thermometer, and have ready a cooling rack set over a sheet tray.
6. In a large bowl, measure together the rice, cheese, herbs, breadcrumbs, flour, eggs, salt and pepper. Add the cooled ground beef mixture.
7. Using your hands, combine all of the ingredients until well mixed. You should be able to easily compact the mixture to form a ball, but if it’s too loose, add 2 additional tablespoons of flour.
8. Using your hands, form the mixture into slightly-larger-than-golf-ball size balls, making sure you compact the mixture.
9. Roll the balls in either flour, tapping off any excess, or breadcrumbs.
10. Once the oil is hot, carefully lower 6 to 8 croquettes at a time into the pot, and fry until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.
11. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croquettes to the cooling rack set over the sheet tray, and place in the oven to keep warm. Continue frying.
12. Transfer the croquettes to a platter, and serve with your favorite marinara sauce.
Was this the healthiest of dinners? No. But, it was an excellent way to creatively use up ingredients I already had, and it was delicious, comforting and fun to eat.
I served the coquettes with warm marinara for dipping, and a big salad on the side. We had to get our veggies in somehow! Next time you have leftover rice in your fridge, and some willing helping hands, try making your own personal version of croquettes. Feel free to make them golf ball size, or make them bite size, which would be perfect your next at-home tailgating party!
Looking for more comforting family meals? Join us for our Virtual Family Night and Virtual Sunday Dinner classes this October and November. Check out our class calendar here.