One of the most popular Spanish tapas (food bites one eats while drinking), croquettes are also a staple in Spanish cuisine, often served as a light lunch or dinner with a salad. These little bites may easily be called the ultimate comfort food; they are delicious, crunchy, salty, and crispy. The most popular variety is Croquetas de Jamón (croquettes with ham) but it’s simple enough to make them with other core ingredients as well.
What Is a Croquette?
Spanish croquette is a dish that came to be in an effort to avoid wasting food. Essentially, all leftover vegetables and meat were mixed with the bechamel sauce and then fried. It was France that brought croquettes to Spain; however, the French variety uses a creamy potato base as opposed to the Spanish bechamel sauce. Namely, bechamel sauce is creamy goodness made of milk, flour, and butter.
There’s no rule what ingredients the croquettes may have; as mentioned, they were a dish that combined leftovers, meaning that any ingredient, vegetable, meat, cheese, etc. can become a part of the recipe. However, the most popular variety is definitely Croquetas de Jamón, made with Spanish ham. Other popular croquette recipes include:
- Queso (cheese)
- Setas or boletus (mushrooms)
- Espinacas (spinach)
- Pollo (chicken)
- Cocido (Spanish stew)
- Bacalao (codfish)
- Pulpo (octopus)
And this is definitely not the final list when it comes to ingredient options and possibilities! Depending on your diet, you can experiment with a bunch of different ingredients. That said, it’s simple enough to turn your croquette into a vegan specialty and even easier to make it vegetarian.
How to Make Croquetas de Jamón
If you want to make the absolute best croquettes, make sure to prepare the bechamel sauce the day before. That way, the mixture will have time to set, which will make the croquette shaping infinitely easier. Some would even call this tip the secret ingredient for making the most delicious Spanish croquettes.
Ingredients for about 12 croquettes (you can get more or less depending on the size of your croquettes):
- 3 oz of finely chopped jamón serrano or other dry-cured ham
- 2 eggs
- 3 generous tbsp of all-purpose flour
- 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cup of heated whole milk
- 2 tbsp of olive oil (plus the frying oil)
- 2 tbsp of fine and dry bread crumbs
- Salt to taste
Take your saucepan and place it on medium heat, just enough for the 2 tbsp of olive oil to heat up and the butter to melt. Once the butter is melted, it’s time to add the flour and mix everything rather well for about 2 minutes. It’s best to use a whisk for this.
When the flour is all blended with the oil and melted butter, pour ½ cup of milk and increase the heat. Wait for everything to boil and then pour the remaining milk. Use your whisk (or spoon) to stir everything for about 5 minutes. You should notice as the mixture starts to thicken. At that point, reduce the heat to medium again and stir for about 10 more minutes, as the mixture has to thicken completely.
Once the mixture is nicely thickened, you can toss in the finely chopped Jamon serrano and add a bit of salt. Don’t go overboard with salt as the ham is already salty. Stir everything until there’s an even distribution of ham in the mixture. Cook for about one more minute.
Take a pan (preferably an 8-inch square dish) and lightly coat it with oil. Pour your cooked mixture into this pan and spread it evenly. Now you wait. You have to let this mixture cool down completely for at least 2 hours in a refrigerator. Ideally, you should leave it set overnight.
When it’s time to continue with the preparation of your croquettes, take a bowl and beat 2 eggs. On another plate, spread the bread crumbs. Take the bechamel-ham mixture from the fridge. Use 2 spoons to get the mixture out of the pan and then form the shape of the croquette in your hands. Roll the shaped croquette in the bread crumbs, then dip it in the eggs, and then again in the bread crumbs. Do this for every single croquette and place them on a separate plate when done. When you finish shaping, rolling, and dipping all of your croquettes, place the plate with them in a fridge for about half an hour.
Take a deep pot and fill it with olive oil to about 2 inches. Heat up the oil on high heat – once the oil is smoking, it’s time to fry the croquettes. Place about 5 croquettes into the oil with a spoon, and use that spoon to press on and turn them so that they get fried evenly. In general, croquettes should be perfectly fried after about 2 minutes. You will know when to get them out as they’ll turn golden brown all over. Of course, don’t try to lift them with your fingers. It would be best to use a slotted spoon for this so that you allow the oil to drain back into the pot properly. Place the fried croquettes into a previously prepared bowl/plate that you lined with paper towels. This will allow the extra oil to drain further as well. If you want to make sure that all of your croquettes are nicely warm until you finish the last batch, keep the already fried ones in a low-heat oven.
Lucky for you, croquettes can be served immediately!
Depending on the size of your croquette, the calorie count varies as well. In general, a single croquette the size of walnut has about 200 calories. That said, croquetas de Jamon are very nutritious, so if you have to watch your diet and calorie count, make sure to go easy on the number of croquettes you eat. Remember that a whole serving for a full meal would be about 6 croquettes, and that’s already 1200 calories, if not more.
The Tapa Philosophy
As mentioned at the beginning, croquettes are the go-to bite for tapas in Spain. Essentially, tapa is the Spanish philosophy that states: “Eat when you drink, drink when you eat.” It’s a tradition in Spain to go out and drink with good company. And it’s always a good thing to have something to eat while you drink. Therefore, tapas are not meant to be actual meals, but more like satiating bites that go well with alcoholic beverages.
True, we can’t say that Spanish croquettes are the easiest dish to make. They fall in the intermediate category of culinary skills. That said, if you believe your skills are not there yet, you don’t have to lose an opportunity to taste the delicious and traditional Spanish croquettes. Pay us a visit at Glass & Vine and enjoy this appetizing tapa with a nice drink. Be it on your own if you so prefer or with a whole party, you’re welcome to discover the beauty, peace, and serenity of nature that makes Glass & Vine a true getaway from the buzzing Miami. Situated near the sea in Coconut Grove, you’ll get to nurture all of your senses, starting with your taste buds.