Spanish Photo Recipe: How to Make Croquetas (Croquettes)

How can something so good be made of leftovers? Well it's possible, and it's called a croqueta. Some of you may know them from the French word croquette, meaning to crunch, which has since been modified around the world to more or less symbolize a deep-fried meat and potato or béchamel "nugget." In Spain the croqueta is their answer to quick, delicious and sustainable kitchen options - fast food if you will - after all McDonald's is a recent cultural invention around here. The kids are hungry and need an afternoon snack - croquetas, you made chicken soup the day before and need a side dish for tonight's meal - croquetas, or having a bunch of friends over and a few of them happen to be picky eaters, easy solution - croquetas!

In the Iberian peninsula 99% of the time this national "tapa" will be filled with béchamel and a left over or lower priced meat source; sadly the filet mignon croqueta hasn't been placed on menu pages quite yet. Quite commonly seen versions include: chicken, jamón, salted cod fish, tuna, spinach or more unusual combinations such as cocido Madrileño, blue cheese, herbs, boiled eggs or maybe Galician ham with tetilla cheese (post to come on this). practically any combination is feasible, and everyone has their gustos. Some like 'em hot, others prefer theirs with more béchamel, others with a heavier presence of the main meat component, creamier fillings, thicker fillings, bite-size and cylinder shaped, or oblong and stuffed. In theory, there is no true rule and therefore they are just like people - something for everyone.

It's one of Spain's dishes that reaches every corner of the country. And due to its simplicity it's a winner because you'll just as easily find them on the menus of your favorite gastropubs as you would at your Grandmother's house - and probably in your opinion your mother makes the best ones, just as her mother did.
You all know that I'm no slave to measuring cups, going by eye is more my thing. This recipe will serve about 6 people, as an appetizer or side dish. Credits to my boyfriend's mother, Julia, who taught me how to make my first Spanish croquetas, and I've got to say they left an impression on me - they might just be the best I've tried.

You will need (estimating - add more or less as you see fit):
- 1 cup or 200 grams of your base ingredient (chicken below)
- 1 large onion
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 cup or 220ml of whole milk (don't be shy!)
- 1/2 bouillon cube of chicken stock
- nutmeg, salt and pepper
- 2 eggs
- breadcrumbs for coating

1) We start with our left over chicken, pulled from the bones (white and dark meat cut into small pieces) 2) In a pan with a little olive oil or butter (or bacon fat - gluttons!) we saute the diced onions - I think shallots would be nice here too

3) On another burner heat a pot of water. Later you will add this to mixture and the warmth of the liquid insures that the béchamel will not be lumpy

4) Add 3 tablespoons of flour to the pan - this will form your roux. 5) Little by little stir in the warm water (roughly 2 tablespoons)

6) Add the chicken and half of a concentrated boullion cube, stir and blend on low heat

7) To create the béchamel begin to stir in the whole milk (pour in small batches)

8) Grate nutmeg over the mixture. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. 
Continue to stir.

Slowly but surely the the filling will form, become thicker and the sides of the pan will be clean. These are all good signs! 

9) When you've reached the desired consistency, yes, a bit like a speckled jamón Slimer (Ghostbusters reference), set aside to cool and cover with plastic-wrap. 

10) Go to the beach! Or take a walk. While the croqueta filling cools, you've got some time to kill. 

11) Back at home, back to work. Take out the cooled mixture and begin to roll into small balls - about the size of a fat gumball. 

12) Place the finished balls aside. In total you should have about 16-20.

13) Roll the balls into an egg bath.  14) From the egg mixture, drop them into the breadcrumbs. 

15) After the breadcrumbs, roll out in your hands into a longer shape, about 1" by 2". If the filling pops out, cover with a bit more of the breadcrumb mixture. 

Ya está! They are ready to fry!

16) Heat the olive oil to a high temperature (380° F/190° C) in non-shallow recipient and add the croquetas one by one; don't pack too many into the pot at a time, being careful to leave room for them to cook. Fry for about 3 minutes or until they appear a hue of golden brown.

17) Serve and enjoy! Buen provecho


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