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Bitterbal: Caribbean Croquettes

Bitterbal, or bitterballen, is a delightful Dutch recipe that is popular in the group of Caribbean islands referred to as the Netherlands Antilles.

They are similar to croquettes, but with a creamier filling. Because they are smaller than the traditional krokechis/kroketten (croquettes), they are typically served as appetizers and snacks.

The term bitter refers to alcohol and bal means ball. Bitterballen contain no alcohol, but are on the menu in most pubs; hence, the name.

As with many fried appetizers, there is a trick to eating bitterballen. They not only taste best served with a spicy mustard, but should be allowed to cool a little as the insides will be quite steamy. Forego the toothpicks as well and just eat them with your fingers and a thick napkin. The smaller the balls, the less heat and mess you will encounter. I recommend a 1-inch ball and no larger than 1 ½ inches.

Bitterbal (makes approximately 2 dozen)

White Sauce:
½ cup beef broth
3 Tablespoons flour
3 Tablespoons butter

Beef mix:
¾ pound ground beef or veal (you can also use shrimp, chicken, or any meat)
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon worcestershire
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup finely ground cracker crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons water

Oil for deep frying

-Brown the meat first and set aside.
-Make the white sauce. Heat the butter and add in flour, stirring constantly. Preheat the broth before slowly adding to the flour and butter.
-Add sauce to meat.
-Add parsley, worcestershire, and pepper
-mix well with hands and refrigerate for at least two hours.
-Remove from refrigerator and make 1-inch balls from the cold mix.
-Combine egg and water for a wash
-Roll balls in crumbs, then egg wash, then in crumbs again
-Drop into hot oil (highest setting) for approximately 2 minutes. Test to see if done inside. It will still be "creamy."

Note: You can add salt, onion, chilis, and minced carrots to this recipe to suit your taste.

Everyone will love these tasty, crunchy little balls. If you are cooking with kids, have them look up the Netherlands Antilles on a map and let them discover the islands for themselves. It is always fun to bring international flair to the kitchen and new knowledge to the table.

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