The other day I shared some pictures of the kids’ birthdays, and the picture that gathered the most attention was the one with the croquetas. Some of you asked for the recipe, so I am going to try to share it. I say try because I tend to eyeball my cooking, and by now this is one of the recipes that I cook by memory. The original source for it is the classic book by Simone Ortega, 1080 recetas de cocina. Simone Ortega was a Spanish Julia Child of sorts, and many Spaniards my age got her book as a present when they moved out of their houses.
But by now, this recipe has 17 years of modifications. I warn you that the first few times I tried were a disaster, and we ended up eating broiled bechamel for dinner. But once I tweaked the recipe a bit, and I mastered them, they became one of the favorite meals in our house, and now that I have free and invested labor to put them together, they don’t even take that long to make.
A couple of things before you start: First, it is important to have a good non stick pan to make the bechamel. I use a ceramic one. Second, the secret to perfect croquetas is how you fry them. After trying a pan, a frier, etc, I discovered, thanks to my mother in law, that the best way is to use a small saucepan with enough oil to submerge the whole croquetas. That, and very hot oil, is what renders the crunchiest finish.
They pair well with salad or gazpacho, as they definitely need something fresh to balance their richness. I have also made them in bulk for parties, and they are always the first thing to disappear.
When I first started blogging at Chicago Now I intended to share recipes often. That never happened, but it is better late than never, so I am going to give it another shot. I won’t promise weekly posts. But I will try. And I hope you try them too.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/4 gallon milk whole, room temperature
- 8 tbsp flour
- 3 eggs boiled
- 6 oz boiled ham
- 2 wedges cheese
- 16 oz canola oil
- 3 tbsp flour
- 4 eggs beaten
- 5 tbsp breadcrumbs
- Boil the three eggs.
- In a pan, melt the butter in the two tablespoons of olive oil.
- Once it is melted, add the 8 tablespoons of flour.
- Stir with a wooden spoon until a roux forms. The flour will absorb the oil and butter, and it will darken in color.
- When it has become compact and a bit crumbly, it is time to start adding the milk little by little, and stir. Add salt and pepper to your liking. I personally prefer white pepper for this, but black pepper will work too. Repeat as needed, until the bechamel becomes dough like. This is the step that becomes a bit tricky, because the most important thing about this process is the consistency of the bechamel we are making. It has to be consistent enough to form balls, but if you overdo it the croquetas will be too heavy.
- Once you have the desired consistency, add the chopped ham, boiled eggs and cheese. You could replace these with pretty much anything. The ideal ones have jamón serrano, but that is scarce in the US right now. Some variations that I have tried are croquetas de roquefort and a vegetarian variation with mushrooms and spinach.
- Mix well and pour into a 9 by 11 baking dish. Once it cools down, cover it and leave it in the fridge overnight, so it hardens a bit more and it is easier to work.
- Now comes the fun part, where the kids can help. In our house we do chain work, and promotions are granted when earned. Build a breading station, with the bechamel, a plate with flour, another plate with the four beaten and salted eggs, and a last plate with breadcrumbs. Start forming little ovals with the bechamel, and then roll them in the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs.
- It took me years, and a look at my mother in law's technique, to learn how to get perfectly crispy croquetas. The best results come when I fry them in a small saucepan, with plenty of very hot oil. I place a spider skimmer inside, and use it as my frying basket.
- It takes about a couple of minutes for them to become golden and crispy. Once they do, take them out of the oil and place them in a plate over a couple of paper towels, to get rid of the excess oil.
- Enjoy them!!!
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