Monday, January 4, 2010

A Study of Beets with Goat Cheese Croquettes

I've read a couple of blog posts on beets lately, so I thought I would throw my hat into the ring with an idea for a study of beets with goat cheese croquettes.  One large bunch of beets will serve four people with this recipe as an elegant first course.  It will take some time to prepare all of the various components, but once the mise-en-place is done, plating should be easy and is sure to impress your friends at a dinner party.  Red, golden, or striped beets work fine for this recipe, or you can use a mixture of the three if you want to be really fancy.

Beets are one of the vegetables that is readily available here in New England through the cold winter months.  I have noticed in the past five years or so in the restaurants around town and emergence of popularity for the vegetable.  Restaurants like them because they are cheap and you can use pretty much the entire thing.  Customers like them because they are sweet and they are visually appealing with their deep purple, golden, or striped appearance.  The combination of beets and goat cheese has become more popular than anyone could possibly imagine because it's so delicious.  The sweetness of the beets acts as a fantastic foil to the tangy quality of the goat cheese.  In the following recipe, I make use of this classic combination and use the entire beet for a salad with a variety of textures and sweet to earthy flavors.

Study of Beets with Goat Cheese Croquettes

1 large bunch of beets
1 "log" of fresh goat cheese
Progresso brand Italian style breadcrumbs
dijon mustard
minced shallots
minced garlic
orange juice
dried herbs
dry white wine or Sherry
Sherry vinegar
salt and pepper

Prepare the beets:
  1. Begin by removing the stems and leafy greens from the roots.  Chop the stems into small pieces, and slice the leaves into a rough chiffonade.
  2. Steam the roots in a covered pot until they are fork tender.  This could take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the beets.  Once the beets are cooked all the way through, remove the fibrous outer layer by gently rubbing it with a paper towel.  Dice the cooked beet root into bite-sized pieces and set aside to cool
  3. Braise the chopped stems in an aromatic broth of white wine or dry sherry, bay leaf, onion, and peppercorns until they are done to your liking.  I prefer them with a little crunch.  Set them aside for later use.
  4. Make a vinaigrette with chopped shallot, garlic, honey, sherry vinegar, orange juice, dijon mustard, and good quality EVOO.  You will dress the beets greens with this just before serving.
For the goat cheese croquettes:
  1. Whip room temperature fresh goat cheese with EVOO, salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you like.  I use dried tarragon and parsley, but just about anything would be delicious.
  2. Taste for seasoning and roll into 1/2 inch balls.
  3. Dip the balls in an egg wash and roll them in Progresso brand Italian style breadcrumbs.  Set the breaded croquettes on a pan and put them in the freezer for a half an hour to set.
  4. In the meantime, heat a heavy pan with vegetable oil on the burner to 350˚.
  5. Deep fry the croquettes for a couple of minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Make a couple of extra, because you'll be too tempted to eat them up greedily before you can make it with the salads to the table to serve your friends.
Assemble the salad:
  1. Toss the chiffonade of beat greens with a little vinaigrette in a small bowl and place them on the center of the plate.  You can add in some mesclun mix or frisée if you want a larger salad.
  2. Arrange the cooked beet root and braised stems on top of the greens.
  3. Spoon the extra vinaigrette around the outer edge of the plate.
  4. Place the hot goat cheese croquettes on the plates just before serving.
  5. Garnish with freshly cracked pepper, and serve immediately.
Bon Appetit!

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