Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Finnish Mushroom Croquettes...Or Not All Experiments Can Be a Success

When I saw the recipe for Finnish mushroom croquettes, I must say that my interest was piqued. My mind conjured up memories of ham and chicken croquettes that I had eaten as tapas in Spain. They were among my favorite Spanish foods -- so much so that at one point in the past I was referred to as a "croqueta monster" :-)

In reading about modern-day Finland, I learned that mushrooms are a key local food. There are hundreds of edible mushrooms that grow there. Laws called "everyman's rights" are in place -- this means that people can pick mushrooms and berries with no permits -- even on privately owned property. I was amazed to learn that identifying wild mushrooms is still a skill which is taught in Finnish schools. Cepes seem to be one of the most common and prolific mushrooms -- check out this graph.

With all that as a backdrop, I read more carefully through the recipe. I was expecting the process to be something like creating a thick mushroom batter, forming into croquettes, breading and frying. But alas, there was the unexpected step where the cook is instructed to simmer the croquettes in salted water for 15 minutes. Wouldn't they fall apart in the water?

So, I set about my task. I ground the mushrooms in the food processor -- now perhaps I ground them too much? They were almost a mushroom paste. I mixed together the bread crumbs, milk and eggs, and added the mushrooms and salt/pepper. The batter was very liquidy, so I added in some more breadcrumbs to give the batter more substance. With trepidation, I formed some squishy croquettes and then slipped one into my pot of boiling water.

As predicted, the croquette disintegrated. Hmmm...maybe the water was boiling too vigorously. The recipe did say to simmer. I turned the heat down and the water bubbled in a more relaxed manner. I put in three more croquettes. They shed a bit of their outer layer, but then they kept their shape in the water. I turned the timer on for 15 minutes.

When the buzzer went off, I carefully lifted the croquettes out of the pot with a slotted spoon. I had a plate of rather unappetizing, boiled dumpling like balls. Determined to forge ahead, I rolled each in beaten egg and then put more breadcrumbs on. Into a fry pan they went with some melted butter. They browned up nicely. However, they seemed quite greasy. I gingerly tasted one. The filling was fairly light and fluffy, but overall - not a success. Which, of course, makes me ask myself several questions:

(1) Did I make the recipe, as it was made "way back when"? If anyone out there has any insights into this type of recipe, I'm all ears!

(2) What types of mushrooms did people use? Did the Finnish folk in Gloucester forage for mushrooms in the wild, as they may have done at home? I'd be interested to know.

(3) How finely were the mushrooms "ground"? What kind of breadcrumbs did they use? I used the purchased, fine plain bread crumbs.

All I can say is that not all experiments come out as we might expect or want! A couple of people said that I should not post this particular incident to the blog. However, I think that I need to record the good and the bad. Also, if anyone out there remembers how these were made years ago, and whether they were good or bad, I would love to hear. Unfortunately, this time I don't have a revised recipe to share with you!

The Original Recipe: Finnish Mushroom Croquettes
source: Recipes & Finnish Specialties - St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Gloucester

1 lb mushrooms
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
4 Tablespoons bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons milk or beef stock
Few drops of onion juice

Grind mushrooms. Mix bread crumbs, milk and eggs together. Add mushrooms and seasonings. Stir together thoroughly. Form into croquettes. Let simmer in salted water 15 minutes. Dip in egg, dredge with bread crumbs, fry rapidly in butter. Serve with brown sauce and vegetables. Cooked and grated potatoes may be used instead of bread crumbs.

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