Croqueta

Carlos Gazitua, Sergio's CEO whose family founded the Cuban restaurant in 1975, said the restaurant will attempt to make the world's longest croqueta at their store on 3252 SW 22nd Street. (Dreamstime/TNS)

MIAMI — When others asked, “Why would you want to make the world’s longest croqueta?,” Sergio’s Cuban restaurant simply answered, “Why not?”

“Why couldn’t we? There’s nothing stopping us from trying,” said Carlos Gazitua, Sergio’s CEO whose family founded the Cuban restaurant in 1975.

And so, like Sir Edmund Hillary or the adventurer Mallory who first dared to scale Mt. Everest “because it was there,” Sergio’s stands at the precipice. On Oct. 1, which both Miami-Dade and Broward County have named Croqueta Day by proclamation, Sergio’s will attempt to make the world’s longest croqueta at their store on 3252 SW 22nd Street.

(Let history note Mallory was last seen alive 300 feet from the summit.)

This croqueta will be nothing like the deep-fried finger foods ever present at South Florida birthday parties and ventanitas. This will be a croqueta to inspire fear and awe.

Abandon ye all hope who gaze upon it: Six feet long, four to five inches thick, its weight equal to more than 200 regular house-made Sergio’s croquetas (this seems a conservative estimate), which weigh about 2.5 ounces each. That’s a 30-pound croqueta.

Of course, it will be jamón.

“We’ve had our team working on this 24-7 for the last two weeks,” Gazitua said. “We had to figure out how to make a 6-foot croqueta.”

Gazitua said a team of Sergio’s chefs had to figure out how to prepare the bechamel-based croqueta, made with the original Sergio’s recipe, and keep it intact. Even when they had worked out how to keep it whole as they rolled it in breadcrumbs, there remained one gulf in their technology: How to cook it.

Croquetas are deep fried. But how do you fry a 6-foot-long croqueta?

With a 7-foot-long deep fryer, of course.

Gazitua approached the father-son team at Andy Iron Works, which builds custom restaurant equipment, with his idea.

“We’d never been approached to do anything like that,” father Andres Lazaro Ruiz said. “It was a spectacle, but it was funny and fun to do.”

Ruiz fused the burners from four turkey fryers and forged a 7-foot-wide stainless-steel trough for the roiling hot oil, with a wire basket to match. At least two strong men have to lower the croqueta into the bubbling inferno.

Sergio’s chefs have made one test run. It did not go well.

“It failed miserably,” Gazitua admitted. “But we have a strategy where we know we can get it there.”

Gazitua approached Guiness World Records about officiating the attempt, but found it prohibitively expensive. Amazingly, Guiness does have a record holder for “largest croquette.” In October of 2007, a chef in the Netherlands fried a 4-foot, 8-inch croqueta that measured 18 inches across and weighed 497 pounds.

However, Gazitua points out the Dutch Guiness croquette was not edible because it did not cook all the way through. The croqueta record, he says, should be in Miami. After all, we have a street named after them, a cake covered in them, and you can even take a croqueta tour of Miami.

So Sergio’s partnered with Red Bull, which sponsors similar extreme feats of human endurance, like a man diving back to earth from the edge of space, to record the event for our children and our children’s children.

Gazitua intends for the Sergio’s croqueta to be the centerpiece of its Croqueta Day celebration, which will include free beer and alcohol by Hatuey and Bacardi and the unveiling of a mural by Miami artist Nate Dee that reads Croqueta Nation.

And they plan to lop off slices of the absurd croqueta to share with diners who attend.

“Now all they need,” Ruiz said, thinking ahead, “is to bake a loaf of bread big enough to put it on.”

Maybe next year.

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