Last weekend Jacobo’s mom taught me how to make one of my favorite Spanish tapa indulgences – croquetas. It is admittedly a laborious process, but not particularly difficult to do. The recipe below will yield you quite a few croquetas (probably around 40), but keep in mind that you can freeze them and that the more you make at one time, the more worthwhile the long process. The recipe below follows no particular measurements – it’s more about achieving the right consistencies – so if you want to make fewer croquetas, just use less flour, and then less of everything else in order to achieve the correct consistency of the bechamel (the creamy like dough). The amounts of meat are completely up to you – it depends on how much you end up wanting in the croquetas.
Several pieces of jamon (enough to get about a cup or more of shredded meat)
1 chicken breast
Broth from cooking chicken (about ½ cup)
6 large spoonfuls of flour
A few tablespoons of olive oil
A couple cups of milk
A cup or so of powdered bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Keep in mind that you can make virtually any type of croquetas – shrimp, mushroom, cod, or really any kind of meat or vegetable that you have lying around. The key to making it is as flavorful as possible is that you use the broth from whichever ingredient you have in order to enrich the flavor of the croqueta. So, if you decide you want to do shrimp croquetas, boil your shrimp in just a little water (they will cook fast). Once the shrimp are cooked, remove them from their shells and continue to boil the shells in the same water, ultimately using a strainer to remove the shells from the broth (see my post about pimientos rellenos for more details on how to make bechamel with shrimp).
In this case we made croquetas with chicken and jamon, so what we did was boil one chicken breast in a small pot with just a little water (maybe a few centimeters high with water – don’t use too much or the broth won’t be flavorful) with the lid on. Be sure to turn the chicken so that it cooks evenly. Once the chicken is cooked, reserve the water.
You will then want to take the meat from the chicken and shred it in a food processor until it’s a pretty fine consistency (kind of like that of stirred up tuna from the can). You will also want to do the same with the jamon (removing any chunks of fat or any hard pieces once it’s been blended).
In a small pot, heat up a couple cups of milk – not boiling, but so that it is warm.
In a separate medium pot, add enough olive oil so that it covers the bottom of the pan and then some. Heat it up, but not too high, as now you will want to add flour and you don’t want to burn the flour! Add 6 or so heaping large spoonfuls of flour, stirring it with the olive oil. While you do this, continue to make sure that you have heat, but not too much. You will want to stir until the consistency is similar to that of pie dough or pasta dough. If it’s too dry, add more oil, if it’s too moist, add more flour.
Once your mixture has reached the right consistency, you will want to start mixing in the warm milk. Add a little milk at a time, through a small strainer to remove any of the cream. Stir it in slowly with the dough mixture – you will still want to do this over the heat, but be sure it’s not too hot. You may even want to alternate having the pot on the burner and then off the burner in order to control the heat. Be sure to mix everything well!
Continue to add the milk so that the consistency starts to get creamy. Before it gets too creamy though, begin adding the reserved chicken broth. The goal is to get the consistency to a mashed potato like texture and very fine with no chunks, so if once you’ve add the broth, you still need more moisture, begin adding milk again. Toward the end, add a few pinches of salt and even some white pepper (or whatever you prefer) – you may want to taste to make sure it has enough salt, but if you’re using jamon (or any salty equivalent), remember that the jamon will add more salt.
Finally, add the jamon and chicken and stir fully. Now you will want it to cool completely before moving to the next step.
Once cooled (whether in the fridge or otherwise), stir up the mixture to ensure the top isn’t too hard.
On a plate, pore a bunch of your breadcrumbs. Separately, in a shallow bowl, beat one egg.
Now, with the bechamel dough, you will take two small spoons in order to create the oval shape of the croqueta – don’t worry too much about the form, this is more to ensure even quantities. Place your spoon fulls of mixture in the egg, fully coat with egg, and then place in the bread mixture. Cover the dough fully with crumbs, then form the shape of the croqueta, and set aside on a tray.
Now, all you need to do is put them in the fryer until they’re a golden brown, or you can even freeze them for another day. Or, if you are desperate and curious like me, you can pop them in the oven (the fryer scares me sometimes) – it’s not nearly as good, but if you must, it’s an option.
That’s it! Viva la croqueta!