Potato croquettes with Manchego cheese & quince sauce

Jun 09, 2010 by Susana Fare

Who doesn’t like potatoes? I always liked them, but it took me a while to realize how good they really are for you. Although, it may seem like just a starchy item without any nutrients, that’s far from the truth of the matter.

After doing some research to find out who first cultivated potatoes, it’s generally believed that it has its origin in the Andes Mountains.

Many sources state that the cultivation of potatoes started near Lake Titicaca, at heights upwards of 4,000 to 6,000 feet, and cultivated for about 10,000 years ago by the Aymara Indians. They were the indigenous people in Peru who were the ancestors of the Inca civilization.

Believe it or not, Peru and Chile are fighting over the origin of who has claim to first developing the potato. Some researches found archeological evidence of the potato consumption in southern Chile dated back 14,000 years.

Spanish conquerors then came upon the potatoes in 1537, while traveling in South America and brought them back to Europe. During that time, potatoes were believed to be evil and even a poisonous aphrodisiac.

In 1621, potatoes were then brought to colonial America, and were first cultivated in North America in New Hampshire in 1719. Since then, potato crops have been grown here ever since–especially in Idaho.

According to “101 Foods That Could Save Your Life” book, a medium potato holds nearly half of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. With the skin on, potatoes provide more than 20% of the daily value of potassium. If we compare a potato and a tomato, a potato has much vitamin C than a medium tomato. Comparing a potato and a banana, a potato has twice of the potassium found in a banana.

There’s also an interesting paragraph in the book about how the potato chip came to be. Railroad tycoon Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt didn’t like a chef who cut his potatoes very thick before frying them.

A new chef called George Crum, sliced potatoes paper-thin and fried them. Vanderbilt liked them so much that he named them the “Saratoga Crunch Chips,” the precursor of today’s potato chips. The name Saratoga comes from the restaurant Crum, which opened in 1860 near Saratoga Lake, NY. Interesting, isn’t’?

All over Latin America, the potato still goes by the Quechua name PAPA.

Croquettes are famous in Spain and are known as a tapa. They take a lot of oil to fry, but as I try to eat healthy, I use less quantity of oil when making them.

Manchego cheese and quince paste is a traditional Spanish dessert. It’s simple and delicious. The combination of the salty cheese and sweet paste is a perfect match.

Quince is originally from the Caucasus, from the warm Persian climate. Its shape looks like and apple or pear. It is not well known or used in America but valued in ancient times such as symbol of fertility in medieval weddings.

Because of the good Mediterranean climate, its cultivation spread all over the region. Romans preserved quince with honey and made jam. English settlers brought quince to America.

It takes time to prepare quince for cooking but it is worth it, at least for me. I love this fruit. When quince is in season, I buy the fresh fruit at any Middle Eastern market and make quince jam, which is my favorite! If not, I just try to get it already made.

Ingredients

For the croquettes:

  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Manchego cheese (grated)
  • 2 tsp minced green onion
  • 2 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Pinch thyme
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil for frying

For the sauce:

  • 4 tbsp quince paste
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • Hot water to dissolve paste

Directions:

Boil the potatoes until tender or cook them in the microwave first. When ready, discard the skin and mash the flesh well. Add olive oil, mash the potatoes again and add the cheese. Add the green onions, parsley, thyme and cayenne. Mix them well.

Working with your hands, shape the mix into balls or ovals. Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet or flat plate. Beat the egg in a bowl. Drop the balls one at a time into the breadcrumbs first and then into the beaten egg. Repeat the process until all croquettes are dipped and breaded.

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the croquettes rotating them until golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon and dry the oil excess with kitchen towel.

For the sauce, mix the quince paste with sherry vinegar adding a bit of hot water to dissolve the paste. It will result in a sweet-sour sauce just to match the cheese croquettes.

Serve the croquettes with the quince sauce.

Serves: 2-3

Note: Quince paste is usually sold in Middle Eastern markets. You can also use quince jam, which is not so thick. In that case, you will need less water.

If you want or need more vegetarian recipes or instructions on different dishes, you can find them here, or at my blog Spanish Steps.

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