Temperatures are dropping. Dark green trees are beginning to speckle with flecks of gold. And piles of kabocha pumpkins have made their appearance in grocery stores. Signs all point to one thing — fall is here. It’s cool enough to bear using your stove again (yay!), and these kabocha and cheese korokke (croquettes) are a delicious place to start. Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, each korokke is filled with a comforting mixture of sweet kabocha and sharp cheddar, spiced with smoked paprika and cayenne. Every bite is a reminder that you have successfully survived another scorching summer.

Kabocha is a type of winter squash, and many refer to it as “Japanese pumpkin.” Unlike Western pumpkins, kabocha’s vibrant orange flesh has a much sweeter flavor. If you haven’t cooked kabocha before, you may find that they can be a bit tricky to cut open. Start by removing the knobby stem. Then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. (Some people like to microwave it for a few minutes to soften the kabocha, first.) I find a large, sharp chef’s knife will do the trick: Just cut down with purpose, and imagine something that will make you angry enough to get the power to slice it. There are several ways to cook it before mashing, but the easiest are to either steam it in a pot or use a microwave. Once fork-tender, the flesh is a breeze to separate from the skin.

You can eat these croquettes as a snack or pair them with a big green salad for a heartier meal. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge for three days or the freezer for up to a month. But that’s a big if.

Makes 6
Cook: 20 mins., plus chilling

  • 441 grams skinless kabocha (about ½ a small pumpkin), cooked and mashed
  • 21 grams (1½ tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 100 grams (about ½ cup) onion, diced
  • 3 grams (1 teaspoon) kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 100 grams (¾ cup) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 78 grams (½ cup) all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 75 grams (1¼ cups) panko
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

1. Place the mashed kabocha into a large bowl and set aside.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the onions and saute until soft and fragrant, about three minutes. Add the butter and onions to the mashed kabocha. Wipe the pan and set aside, you will use it to fry the korokke later.

3. Add salt, seasonings and cheese to the kabocha bowl. Mix until fully incorporated. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, set up the dredging station. Place flour, eggs and panko into three separate shallow bowls. Set aside.

5. Once the kabocha mixture is chilled, remove and divide into six equal portions. Using your hands, form six hamburger-like patties. The mixture will be a little sticky. Dredge each patty into the flour until fully coated. Next, dunk it into the eggs. Finally, coat it in panko and set aside.

6. In the same skillet from earlier, heat just over 1 centimeter of oil over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add half of the kabocha korokke. Cook on each side until golden brown, about two to three minutes. Place on a paper towel-lined plate or wire rack to remove excess oil. Repeat with all remaining korokke. Serve immediately.

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