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How to make perfect croquetas

Whether oval or round, made with meat or cheese, this Spanish snack should be both crisp and gooey. Owen Morgan, chef-director of Spanish bar and restaurant chain Bar 44, breaks down the creation process. 

By Owen Morgan
Published 3 Mar 2021, 08:00 GMT
Croquetas

Croquetas

Photograph by Getty Images

Base
Most croquetas are made with bechamel sauce, which ensures a molten interior. To get it perfectly silky, whisk as you gradually add stock or milk to a roux, ensuring zero lumps. Before chilling, the mixture should coat the back of the spoon; it’ll thicken up in the fridge.

Flavourings
You’ll find hundreds of flavours of croquetas, including red prawn, chorizo and manchego. One of the most popular is ibérico ham, which is fried with the butter that goes into the bechamel. No ibérico? Serrano or parma ham are good alternatives.

Shaping
The classic shape is oval, but if you’re making a large batch, round balls will be quicker to mass-produce. Whichever you go for, each one should contain around 30g of mixture (roughly one tablespoon). If you don’t use all of your mixture, it can be frozen.

Coating
Croquetas should be crisp on the outside, but gooey and only just holding together inside. Dip your bechamel ball in flour first, so the rest of the coatings stick. Next, dip in beaten egg and, finally, roll in breadcrumbs (panko create a wonderfully dry crunch).

Frying
In a deep-fat fryer or saucepan (one-third full), heat light olive oil or rapeseed oil to 180C. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a small piece of bread in — if it goes golden-brown in 30 seconds, all’s well. Fry for two minutes until golden-brown and crisp.

Make it at home: Owen Morgan's Jamón croquetas

Croquetas are the quintessential Spanish dish – and, for me, the ultimate gourmet bar snack. You can find 100’s hundreds of flavour variations around the country; this recipe uses Ibérico ham but if you can’t find it, serrano or Parma ham are good alternatives.

Serves: 6-8 as a snack
Takes: 1 hr 35 mins plus overnight chilling

Ingredients

450ml milk
450ml chicken stock
180g Ibérico ham, finely diced
150g salted butter, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
140g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for coating
½ tsp ground nutmeg
5 eggs, beaten
200g Panko breadcrumbs
light olive oil, for frying

Method

1. Bring the milk and chicken stock to the boil in a saucepan, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
2. Meanwhile, place a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the diced ham and cook, stirring, for 2 mins to release the flavour.
3. Add the butter and bay leaf; stir until the butter has melted.
4. Add the flour in 3 or 4 stages, stirring between each addition as it thickens. Keep stirring for 3-4 mins to cook out the flour. The roux will turn a light caramel colour. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
5. Transfer the milky stock to the roux 1-2 ladlefuls at a time, stirring as you go. You should end up with a smooth, gooey bechamel sauce texture.
6. Mix in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Transfer to a lined baking tray, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge overnight.
8. When your filling has set, get three bowls ready: one with the extra flour, one with the beaten egg and one with the breadcrumbs.
9. Take the mixture out of the fridge and shape it into balls – about 30g per croqueta. Roll each one in flour, then dip into the egg and coat in the breadcrumbs. Set aside.
10. Pour the oil into a large saucepan so it’s about a third full. Place on the hob and bring to 180C (it’s ready when a cube of bread dropped in turns golden brown in 30 secs).
11. In batches of 5-6, fry the croquetas for 2 mins until golden brown on the outside and molten in the middle. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain off excess oil. 

Owen Morgan is chef-director of Spanish bar and restaurant chain Bar 44

Published in Issue 11 (spring 2021) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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