Spanish croquetas, you can’t stop at one

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    I love croquetas, or croquettes if you will. During my childhood in Spain, while my sister and I were in school, my abuelita would start making the croquetas early in the morning.

    When we got home in the evening, as soon as we walked in the door, we knew the delicious treat was awaiting us.

    My abuelita spent a good part of the day prepping this delicious tapa, but she waited until right before dinner to fry them so they would be warm and crunchy. That wasn’t the only reason for the timely cooking! If left unattended on the kitchen counter, the chances of the croquetas surviving until dinner time were very slim. Someone would surely snag more than one!

    It pays to be patient

    Making croquetas is a long yet simple process. The hardest part for an impatient cook is to wait for the béchamel to cool. Croquettes make a great appetizer, side dish or a main course that goes very well with fresh salad.

    Don’t skimp on meat

    Unlike some bars serving croquetas with only a few pieces of meat inside, those my abuelita and I make use an equal ratio of meat and béchamel.

    The secret? It only takes a good ‘tropezón’

    An interesting word we use for the meat we bite into is “tropezón”, which comes from the verb “tropezar” — to  trip over something or in this case “to case encounter/find” a delicious piece of meat!

    Get to know them

    Croquetas are cylindrical breaded deep fried rolls. The name comes from the French croquet which means crunch. Many countries have adopted them and there are many variations as to the filling: fish, seafood, meat, pork, poultry and vegetables.

    In Spain they are mainly made with béchamel — you can also use mashed potatoes instead. Once you choose the filling, remember that the meat must be finely ground or minced.  Remember, you want the croquetas to be bite size.

    By the way, my abuelita, who raised me from the tender age of three, is 95 this year and still makes croquetas!

    croquetas

    Croquetas make a great appetizer, side dish or a main course that goes very well with fresh salad.  (Photo Shutterstock)

     

    Abuelita’s recipe for chicken croquetas

    Time: 4-6 hours, mostly unattended

    Yield: about 60

    Ingredients

    4 cups  extra virgin olive oil

    4 1/2 Tablespoons butter

    1/2 cup flour

    pinch of nutmeg

    sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

    2 1/2 pounds chicken or other meat, finely ground or minced

    2-3 cups milk, room temperature

    5 eggs

    4-5 cups fresh breadcrumbs, or as needed

    Directions

    • Bake the chicken or simmer on stove top over medium heat. If baking, which I personally prefer, add lemon, olive oil , salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 360F degrees for 25-30 minutes in a shallow glass baking dish. Once it’s done, set aside and allow to cool before mincing or grinding.
    • Heat large pan over medium heat. Add butter and allow it to melt. As soon as the butter is melted, add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk.
    • Cook until it becomes amber in color — about 3 minutes.
    • Add the minced chicken and stir in the milk little by little until it thickens — about 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg while stirring. Once it has reached a thick consistency, pour the content into a shallow dish, spreading it out to form a thin layer for faster cooling.
    • Cover the dish with a paper towel to absorb moisture while it cools. Place it in refrigerator for about 2- 4 hours. This will harden the béchamel and make it more pliable. (You can also let it sit overnight.)
    • Once the béchamel is hardened and you are ready to work with it, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.
    • Put the breadcrumbs on a large plate.
    • With a spoon take some béchamel and with your hands form a long oval cylinder shape and dip in egg mixture.
    • Next, bread the croqueta and set aside on a dish.
    • Repeat the process till you have used up all the béchamel.
    • In a small frying pan, pour oil up to two inches — making sure there is enough to cover the croquetas. Fry in batches of four or five, so that they fry evenly.
    • Place on a plate with paper towel to absorb the excess of oil.
    • Serve right away as a tapa by themselves or with salad to help balance flavors and textures. (Note: These croquetas are are so creamy-dreamy, rich and moist that no dipping sauce is necessary.)

    Kitchen notes

    For frying, I suggest a deep fryer; it’s faster and less oil is absorbed since the heat remains at a higher, more consistent temperature.

    You can also prepare ahead of time and freeze them for later use.

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