Croquetas de Jamon y Pollo (ham and cheese croquettes) are a delicious Spanish tapa dish found in most bars in Spain. And yes, every bar you visit will claim they have the best croquetas in town! Loosely translated the word croqueta has the element of crunch in it (from the French croquer), and that is exactly what they will do in your mouth when you take that first bite.
According to food historians, croquetas were first served in France where they were prepared by the famous chef Antonin Careme(1784-1833) for a special banquet. His croquettes were made of potato, and did not contain the bechamel center of the Spanish croqueta. Somewhere along the line, the croqueta traveled to Spain, evolved and became what it is today.
Croquetas are made with a variety of ingredients, including ham, chicken, mushrooms, cheese or fish. You can use any leftover ingredients, or those you would normally have in your refrigerator. By the way Manchego works great.They are time consuming to make; however, one redeeming factor is that you can do the all labor intensive preparation ahead of time and leave the frying for last minute. Yes, the mixture will also keep well overnight. You can even fry them ahead of time and then freeze. When you are ready to eat, just pull them out and bake!
What I find most intriguing about croquetas is that creamy center which is made possible by the bechamel sauce used to bind the ingredients together. Bechamel you say? Wait a minute! Isn’t that French? Mais oui!! Stranger things have happened, right? One thing to note is that the bechamel you use in making croquetas will have a thicker consistency than that which is used as a sauce to serve over food. A thicker sauce ( i.e. more flour added) will help to properly bind all the ingredients together.
Croquettes are a marvelous blend of textures: crunchy and creamy! What can be better than that?
- 1 whole split chicken breast
- ½ cup minced smoked ham
- 3-4 sprigs of parsley
- 1 small onion cut into slices
- 1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- ¼ cup of white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. salt
- 6-8 peppercorns
- 2 or 3 Tbsp. butter
- 5 Tbsp. olive oil
- ⅛ tsp. nutmeg
- 1¼ cups milk
- ½ cup. flour
- 2 beaten eggs + 1 Tbsp. water
- Oil for frying
- In a saucepan place split chicken breast in wine, parsley, peppercorns, thyme, onion,salt and bay leaf. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove chicken from pan, set aside to cool. Remove meat from bone and return bones to broth.
- Simmer broth for an additional 20 minutes. Set aside ½ cup of the broth.
- Chop chicken as finely as possible. You can use a food processor for this step.
- For the sauce: In a separate pan, slowly melt the butter and add the olive oil. Slowly add the flour until the mixture begins to look somewhat pasty. Add the milk and broth slowly while continuing to stir. Add the ground nutmeg. Cook over medium heat until the sauce is thick.
- Add the chicken and the ham and continue to cook until the sauce boils. Refrigerate for about 3 hours until sauce is cool throughout. NOTE: for quick cooling, you can spread the sauce on a baking dish. The thin layer will help the cooling process.
- To make the croquettes: Make sure your hands are well floured to prevent stickiness. You can also use a small cookie scoop to make the process goes a lot quicker. The ideal size is about 1". Dip croquettes in egg/water mixture and roll in breadcrumbs. Deep fry in very hot oil. The temperature of the oil should be around 390F.
- Drain on paper towel.
- Serve hot.
- Can be frozen and reheated in the oven for 12 minutes at 350F.
Adapted from my all time favorite book on Spanish cooking: Penelope Casas’ “Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain”.