By Ana Mengotti
Miami, Oct 1 (EFE).- Hot dogs may be king in New York City, but croquetas reign supreme at informal eateries in Miami and even have a day – Oct. 1 – set aside in their honor in South Florida.
To mark the fourth edition of Croqueta Day, a location of the Sergio’s restaurant chain in the upscale Miami neighborhood of Coral Gables decided to go all out and serve up a record-setting feast: a two-meter-long (6.6-foot-long) version of that deep-fried snack stuffed with ingredients including ham, the preferred croqueta filling of Miami’s Cuban-exile community.
“The croqueta is our top seller out of everything we prepare,” Raul Abreu, the corporate operations manager at Sergio’s, a chain with more than a dozen locations that sold 20 million croquetas between 1975 and 2017, told Efe.
Sergio’s was behind the initiative to make Croqueta Day an annual celebration in Miami and Miami-Dade County in 2018 (neighboring Broward County later joined the club two years later), Abreu said with pride, showing the special, seven-foot fryer that was made to order for Friday’s unique feat.
The croqueta mixture, which was pre-prepared and frozen, arrived at midday by truck and will be breaded and fried to the desired golden brown color before a small crowd between 5.30 pm and 7.30 pm on Friday evening.
The giant fryer, Abreu explained, has a special mechanism to turn the croqueta and ensure it is evenly cooked.
The origins of the croqueta – a roundish or oval deep-fried, breaded snack filled with a bechamel sauce-based mixture that can include ham, beef, fish or other ingredients and is rolled in beaten egg – is a matter of dispute.
All signs point to its birthplace being France (where it is known as a croquette), although that dumpling-type food arrived in Cuba from Spain.
The ingenuity Cubans are known for also is apparent in the development of the croqueta in Miami, where the croqueta preparada (croqueta sandwich) and even croqueta cake were invented.
As the story behind that latter creation goes, a guest at a Cuban party in Miami, who also happened to be a baker, ate a croqueta that had fallen on a plate with ice cream and had icing sugar sprinkled on it.
Andy Herrera was surprised by the pleasant taste and decided to create a cake in which the croquetas play the same role as cookies in a tiramisu.
He told Efe that since 2018 he has sold an average of 20 to 25 of these cakes per week at his BreadMan Miami bakery chain.
Each of those desserts feature 96 ham-filled croquetas. “Ham is king when it comes to croquetas,” Herrera said.
The croqueta preparada, another Cuban contribution to the world of croquettes, is a twist on the Cuban sandwich and features ham, pork, Swiss cheese, and two ham-filled croquetas housed inside Cuban bread.
The so-called “Croquetazo” eating contest also is to be held once again in the coming days.
In the 2019 edition of that event, American competitive eater Joey Chestnut set a world record by devouring 185 croquetas in eight minutes. EFE