croquetas de jamón

Ah, croquetas. The ubiquitous safe bet on any Spanish bar menu.

I remember my first attempt to duplicate croquetas; it was in an albergue on the Camino de Santiago. And I was so sure the inside of these creamy, fried morsels was potato. So I boiled some potato, mashed it up (by hand), stirred in some cheese and ham, and breaded and fried it. Which, by the way, is a fairly huge endeavor, especially when taken after walking 15 miles.

When I returned to the real world, post-Camino, all it took was a google search to realize that the inside of a croqueta is actually a thick bechamel sauce (duh!), enlivened with anything from cheese and ham to clams and green sauce to sweetbreads.  A homemade croqueta is an exciting thing, and you know you're getting one when a)there are strange flavor offerings and b)the croquetas are irregularly shaped. A perfectly round ham and cheese croqueta is not a good thing. Not a bad thing (I mean, come on. It's fried flour and dairy three ways), but not a good thing.

The good thing is, they're super easy to make yourself, and can be done in stages and frozen, too!

 

croquetas de jamón (ham croquettes)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups whole milk, warmed
1 cup grated cheese (i used mezcla semicurado...anything close to manchego will do)
3-4 oz thinly sliced cured ham (like jamon serrano), diced
salt and black pepper to taste
flour
eggs
breadcrumbs

Melt butter over medium high heat. Whisk in flour and keep stirring for a couple minutes. Whisk in hot milk until completely incorporated and thick. It should be the consistency of thick mashed potatoes...add more milk if necessary. Stir in cheese and ham until cheese is melted. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cool mixture.
Form balls or finger-shaped croquetas, roll in flour (shaking off as much as possible), dip in egg, and roll in breadcrumbs.
Deep fry in vegetable or sunflower oil until golden brown.
Can be frozen for easy spanish snacking.