Sambal oelek (Recipe: Kartoom croquettes)
A week of ingredients featured in kid-friendly recipes from the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook by Georgeanne Brennan. Parts of this post come from our archives, with new photos, links and recipe. Welcome to Dr. Seuss Week, Day Three.
In a former life, I must have been Asian. Or Cajun. Or Trinidadian.
The proof is in my pantry.
In the cupboards, on the spice rack, and most definitely in the refrigerator, I have every imaginable form of heat: chili paste with garlic, chili sauce, ground chile, red chile, Thai chile peppers, cayenne peppers, dried habanero, sriracha, harissa, sambal oelek and salsa verde, and hot sauces ranging from Rhode Island Red to Dave's Insanity to Hotter Than Hell.
On the warmer end of the heat scale, sambal oelek derives from the Dutch spelling, which in modern Indonesian spelling has become ulek; both have the same pronunciation. According to Wikipedia, ulek is a kind of Indonesian (particularly Javanese) stone mortar (ulek-ulek) and pestle (ulekan) made from a mature bamboo root, used for crushing chiles, peppers, shallots, peanuts, and other ingredients.
Thicker than sauce, thinner than salsa, sambal oelek is a fresh-ground paste made of chile peppers, salt, and sometimes vinegar, lime juice, lemongrass or brown sugar. The heat of the sambal depends entirely on the variety of peppers.
Huy Fong Foods, a California company, makes the brand of sambal oelek in my pantry; they also make sriracha sauce, which is strained, and smoother. Huy Fong is the most widely distributed brand in the United States, available in almost every supermarket and Asian grocery.
Stored in the refrigerator, sambal will last almost indefinitely. Because its main contribution is heat, you can substitute chili paste, harissa, Tabasco, red pepper flakes, chile powder, or fresh Thai bird chiles.
Once you have a jar in your pantry, you'll find all sorts of ways to use it, in a salad with couscous, fish and vegetables, cabbage with hot sauce, masala turmeric squid with coconut cream, andouille and shrimp fried rice, kale and myzithra crostini, or carrot and fennel soup.
If a *Natch can take the heat, so can you.
They'll fix up a dish that is just to his taste;
Three chicken croquettes made of library paste,
Then sprinkled with peanut shucks, pickled and spiced,
Then baked at 600 degrees and then iced.
(From If I Ran the Zoo)
*From the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook, by Georgeanne Brennan: "A beast called the Natch, who lives in Kartoom, has always stayed in his cave, refusing to come out. But Gerald McGrew, who plans to catch unusual creatures for his zoo, decides to lure him out with pickled, peanut-sprinkled chicken croquettes." These are chicken nuggets any kid would love, but the flavors are for grown-ups, too. The sambal adds a necessary something, but does not make these croquettes spicy. Unless you add more. Which you certainly can! Slightly adapted from the original recipe. Serves 4; can be doubled.
2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken (rotisserie chicken is fine)
4 Tbsp dried, unflavored bread crumbs
2 Tbsp minced scallions
1 tsp sambal oelek
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp minced cilantro or parsley
1 cup finely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts (if allergic to peanuts, use bread crumbs)
Chopped gherkin or half-sour pickles, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a bowl, mix together the chicken, bread crumbs, scallions, sambal, salt, eggs and cilantro to make a thick paste. With your hands, divide the mixture into twelve equal parts, then shape into logs or patties.
Put the chopped peanuts on a plate, and roll each croquette in the peanuts. Place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Serve hot, garnished with pickles.