Belgian Shrimp Croquettes (Croquettes Aux Crevettes Grises)

READY IN: 1hr 45mins




  • Shell the shrimp and reserve the shells. Chop the shrimp into 1/4-inch dice.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shrimp shells and cook for 2 more minutes. Add 1-3/4 cups milk and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  • Strain the broth through a sieve and discard the solids. Return the broth to the saucepan and heat over low heat. Add the shrimp and poach for 3 minutes. Drain the shrimp and reserve the broth. You should have 1-1/2 cups of broth left.
  • In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Let stand while you prepare the béchamel sauce.
  • Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Switch to a whisk and gradually whisk in the reserved broth. Bring almost to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 7 minutes. Add the grated cheese and bring to almost a boil again.
  • Heat the gelatin mixture over low heat until the gelatin has melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir it into the béchamel sauce and mix well.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Whisk the egg yolk and remaining 5 tablespoons milk together, then stir it into the béchamel. Stir in the shrimp, lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne.
  • Line a 9-inch-square cake pan with plastic wrap. Pour in the shrimp mixture and smooth with a spatula. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least overnight or up to 3 days.
  • Prepare the coating: In a medium-size bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil just until frothy. Put the flour and bread crumbs into separate shallow bowls ready for dipping.
  • Unmold the firm shrimp mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into 3 x 1-1/2-inch rectangles and roll each rectangle into a cylinder for croquettes. For smaller hors d’oeuvres, cut each rectangle in half and roll into a ball.
  • Arrange the three bowls in order -- flour, then egg whites, then bread crumbs -- and coat the croquettes one at a time: Dust each cylinder or ball lightly with flour, dip into the egg white mixture, and coat with the bread crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until ready to fry. (At the point, the croquettes can wait several days in the refrigerator or longer in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator before frying.).
  • Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  • Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a deep fryer to 375°F Fry the croquettes, a few at a time, until they turn a rich golden color, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the over until ready to serve.
  • Serve the little walnut-size fritters as hors d’oeuvres with a supply of toothpicks. The larger croquettes traditionally are serve on a plate decorated with Boston lettuce leaves, lemon wedges, and Fried Parsley (see below).
  • Deep Fried Parsley: (“Very crisp and utterly delicious,” according to Ruth. Traditionally served with cheese or shrimp croquettes, and as a garnish for fish dishes.) Rinse two cups curly parsley leaves (stems removed) under cold running water. Spin dry and roll in a clean dish towel to dry completely. Heat oil in a deep fryer or wok to 375°. Add the parsley and fry until crisp but not brown, about 20 seconds. Remove with a skimmer and drain on paper towels.