I have meant to make and post this dish for some time and I’m finally doing it. These crab cream croquettes are fairly common in Japan and can be bought pre-made and frozen, just deep fry to finish at home. A similar dish is presented in the Mark Robison’s Izakaya cook book (p57). I made this as I remembered it and did not follow any particular recipe. I asked my wife if I should serve it with a sauce (Tartar sauce would be the standard but it may be served with tonkatsu or chu-no sauce とんかつソース、中濃ソース), she said just wedges of lemon to preserve the delicate flavor of the crab, which was fine with me. I also garnished it with fried crisped-up parsley.
I served 2 per person as an appetizer with baby arugula.
As you can see below the nice crunchy crust, conceals the hot creamy center stuffed with a plenty of crab meat.
One reason I was a bit hesitant to make this dish is that it takes some preparation and it can “explode” during the frying process which is sort of a disaster to say the least. Besides Mark Robison’s Izakaya cookbook, variations of this recipe in English is available elsewhere.
Ingredients (makes 8 small croquettes seen above):
Crab meat: I used fresh lump crab meat which was leftover from making monk fish medallions with lobster/crab sauce. The amount is arbitrary, the more crab meat the better. I was told that a traditional Japanese dish, uses “canned” crab but I used fresh crab meat which was fine or even better.
Onion: One medium, finely chopped.
Butter: Unsalted, about 1 oz (30g) or a bit less (see direction below).
Flour: All purpose, about 1 oz (30g)
Milk: One and 1/3 cups (or cream if you are so inclined)
Salt and white pepper, freshly ground
Lemon zest, micro grated (optional)
Panko bread crumbs, egg, flour for breading.
Peanut oil or vegetable oil for deep frying.
First, I made a rather stiff Béchamel sauce. As usual, I did not measure things but the above are approximate amounts. To reduce the amount of butter, I melted the butter, sautéed the onion and then added the flour. Because the flour coated the each small piece of onion, I could reduce the amount of butter/oil to make my Béchamel. When all the dry flour was gone (several minutes, I made sure not to color the flour), I added the cold milk all at once. I whisked it to dissolve/disperse the flour and kept whisking until thickened. I switched to a silicon spatula and kept mixing until the mixture had the consistency of firm mustard but not quite as firm as polenta. I mixed in the crab meat and seasoned it with salt and white pepper. On the fly, I decided to add some micro-grated lemon zest but this is optional (other things can be added such as chopped boiled eggs or creamed corn etc). I then dumped the mixture onto an aluminum foil-lined, oiled (I used light olive oil) cookie sheet and spread it out to fill the cookie sheet. I covered it with another sheet of aluminum foil and refrigerated it for an hour or until the mixture became firm (#1 below). After, the mixture stiffened, I divided the mixture into 8 portions using a slicon spatula (#2). Since it was still a bit soft, I refrigerated it for several more hours.
After coating my hands with olive oil, I formed each portion into small cylinders (or “tawara” shape 俵, #3). I could have made oval patties but this shape was what my mother used to make and I am following her lead. I then breaded the cylinders as per usual with, flour, egg water and panko bread crumbs (#4). At this point I had the choice of deep frying it immediately or freezing it either a short period (for 30 minutes) or completely (freezing helps prevent the dreaded exploding croquette). Since I was running out of time and we had other items to eat that evening, I decided to freeze it,
The next evening, I removed the croquettes from the freezer and deep fried, without defrosting, for an evening appetizer (#5). I used a smaller sauce pan instead of my usual frying pan so that the depth of the oil was enough to submerge the croquettes (another precaution to prevent an explosion). At 350F turning several times, I fried it for 5-7 minutes (#6).
To summarize: The steps I take to avoid a croquette explosion are: 1. make the Béchamel somewhat stiffer than usual, 2. refrigerate or, even better, freeze the croquettes before frying, 3. Fry the croquettes at a temperature of 350F or a bit higher and use enough oil so that a crust will immediately form all around.
This was a bit of work but, at the end, it was worth it. We wrapped up the remaining 4 frozen coquettes, I first wrapped them in a plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and placed them in a Ziploc bag and placed back to the freezer for a future feast. This was definitely a very decadent and excellent dish to start the evening. The crunchy crust with the unctuous soft hot interior tasting of sweet crab is irresistible.