I usually make these Cheese Croquets the old fashioned way. After they chilled and hardened in the freezer, I dredge them in flour, then in the remaining 2 egg yolks beaten with 1tablespoon of water and then in Panko bread crumbs and fry in a hot skillet with oil and butter. But watching chefs frying things like Cheesecake, Mac and cheese, sandwiches, nuts, olives and all kind of other food in a tempura batter, I decided to try. The recipe for the tempura batter I took from Cook's Illustrated. When I read their recipe I knew right away that it is going to be a light and crispy coating, because of the vodka and corn starch. My Mom used to put those two ingredients when she fried Mandels for Chicken Soup and they would disappear very fast even before we ate the soup. This is indeed the very best recipe for a tempura batter. I had a good amount of batter leftover and used it for frying 3 Zucchini, about 12 Baby carrots and 2 large underripe tomatoes. —Kukla
Test Kitchen Notes
So, so good! They were light and airy and not overly cheesy or fried-tasting. The tempura batter is excellent and perfectly crisp -- I will be keeping it to use again. My only suggestion is to remind users that the egg whites should be very cold when whipping. Mine weren't super cold, and I had some trouble keeping the batter together prior to the freezing step. —Omeletta
In a medium bowl beat egg whites with a large pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice with a hand mixer until stiff picks form.
In a large mixing bowl combine the cheese and 1egg yolk. Add Herbes De Provence, black and cayenne peppers, garlic powder and lemon zest, mix well. Fold in the egg whites.
Scoop the cheese mixture with a tablespoon, then lightly dredge in flour and form the mixture into balls with your hands. Lay them out on a tray and transfer to the freezer for about 1 hour to chill and harden. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees.
To make the tempura batter: Whisk flour and cornstarch together in large bowl. Whisk egg yolks and vodka together in second bowl. Whisk seltzer water into egg mixture.
Heat about 3 inches oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 375 degrees.
Right before you're ready to fry, pour liquid mixture into bowl with flour mixture and whisk gently until just combined (it is fine if small lumps remain).
Submerge 4 cheese Croquets in batter (keep the remaining in the freezer). With small tongs, remove balls from batter 1 at a time, allowing excess batter to drip off, and carefully place in oil.
Fry, stirring with chopstick or wooden skewer to prevent sticking, until light brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt.
When all of the Croquets are fried and paper towels absorb excess oil, place them on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven until ready to serve.
To use leftover batter make vegetable fritters: Dip a few of vegetable sticks or slices in the batter and fry 2 to 3 minutes, following the same instructions for the Croquets. Make your favorite dipping sauce for the vegetables, and enjoy!