One of the most apreciated Tapa in Spain is the famous cured ham croqueta made solely with bechamel. Resulting into a crunchy exterior with a ultra creamy and tasty interior. The croquetas are simple to do, it’s basically a thicker Béchamel sauce mixed with whether cured ham, cod fish, cuttlefish, mushrooms… anything you want. Also, you can make a big batch and freeze the rest for later, which makes them polivalent. I would say the cured ham croquetas are the most common in Spain or at least in the Catalonia region. Occasionally made out of the famous iberic ham, coming from the black iberic pigs but most of the time they are made out of serrano ham, the normal ham coming form white pigs. But surely it can be replace by whatever cured ham you prefer, and budget you have. The croquetas are shared as tapas accompanied with a drink but it could also make a great light lunch with a salad, or part of a “many plates” tapas diner.
Back in the days, they would use the leftovers of meat from the pigs leg (ham) and then make those croquetas with it. Although, they were created in France, back in 1898, under the name “croquette”, the Spanish one has no potatoes or red meat in it. The Italians, English, Polish, French all have their own versions of croquetas, most versions containing potatoes, béchamel and meat. In Spain they do it differently, by simply using a really thick béchamel, firm enough so that you can form balls with your hands. There are many levels of creaminess, the softest the béchamel the harder it is to form a nicely round form croqueta although the smoother it is on the inside and if the bechamel is too thick it can become quite hard. To find the perfect mixture between those 2 is an art.
In Spain, croquetas is the first dish, kids learn to do, with their grandmother. Not to mention that every Spaniard’s mother does the best croqueta… So… since I am nobody’s mother…yet… let’s see if I can make some tasty ham croquetas anyways… or maybe I’ll have to wait for motherhood to become a pro at it.
Makes 10 croquetas
- 175g or 4 slices of cured ham cut into small pieces (serrano, prosciutto, etc.)
- 1/2 onion, slices in small cubes
- 75g butter
- 75g flour
- 300ml cold milk
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- salt, pepper
For the frying
- plate of flour
- plate of bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
- Olive oil to fry in a small pot, not too full.
- In a pan soften the onion in the butter, until really soft, medium-low heat
- Add the flour and cook until it’s smells nutty (1-2 minutes) medium-high heat
- Add the cold milk and whisk
- Add the seasonings; nutmeg, salt and pepper
- Add the finely cut ham
- Mix until really thick
- Let cool 15 minutes, before having the béchamel to the fridge
- Let set in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours (gets thicker) or more
- When the mixture is jellyish, make small balls with them, or cylinder
- Bring the frying oil to medium high heat (throw a piece of bread in it, should take about 30 seconds to turn light brown, if it turns brown too fast.. it’s too hot.)
- Mix up the eggs in a bowl
- Dip, gently, each ball in the following order; first into flour, then eggs and then the bread crumble
- When the oil is hot enough (a piece of bread turn slowly brown, or a bamboo stick makes small bubble when immersed) add the croquetas 2 or 3 maximum at the time (if it’s a small amount of oil)
- Fry them for about 4 minutes, until light brown
- Let sit on the paper towel
Serve on a lettuce leaves to prevent your fingers from getting too oily. Enjoy!