On a fateful Monday afternoon, a group of students and mentors stumbled out of the Reina Sofía with one thing on their mind: food (as if that wasn’t always the case). After meandering for 30 minutes or so, we finally decided to sit down at a little hole in the wall restaurant run by one man. Based on its rugged appearance and the man’s difficulty in remembering our order, I didn’t have too high of hopes. I, being the uncultured swine that I was, ordered croquetas, not knowing anything about them other than the fact that they sounded like croquet madam, and I knew I liked that. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating croquetas, they are fried, breaded balls filled with a flour and milk mixture and whatever other meat or vegetable you desire. The most typical croquetas are croquetas de jamón (ham), but there are so many different types: mushroom, fish, shrimp, octopus, etc. They remind me of a better version of mozzarella sticks. I know, bold claim, but I’m that confident in the power of croquetas.
So, as I was saying, the plate of steaming hot croquetas emerged from the kitchen and onto the table in front of me. I remember taking my first bite, the croqueta so hot it burned my tongue, and then BAM: my life would never be the same. Those little drops of crunchy, savory goodness blew my mind. Thus began my love affair with croquetas. I went 1 week straight eating croquetas everyday: I felt that if I went more than 24 hours without them, I would experience withdrawal (?). I’ve never understood the whole eating to live mentality. How do those people enjoy themselves?
An overwhelming realization hit me a few days into my relationship with croquetas: I potentially would have to go without my new favorite food once I returned to the US. This prompted me to embark upon a desperate mission to figure out how to make croquetas. Fortunately for me, I live in a host family of two women- Eva, who is in her 90s, and her daughter Belén- who really knows how to cook. Eva is from the city of San Sebastian in Spain, which is known throughout the world for its culinary expertise. Cooking and eating are the two priorities in San Sebastian. (I think I’ve found home). So, Eva, an amazing cook, taught Belén all she knew, including how to make croquetas. On October 4th of 2017, I too was fortunate enough to learn how to make croquetas from Belén.
Below I describe and list the steps to the croqueta recipe Eva and Belén have used for years. For those of you whom I’m close to, I implore you to make them or try them, as croquetas will the basis of our conversations for possibly months (years) to come☺.
Ham Croquetas (Croquetas de Jamón)
Serving Size: 20 croquetas
1. 10-15 grams (2 tbs) butter
2. 4 heaping spoonfulls of flour
3. 2/3 liter of whole milk
4. handful of diced jamón (or really however much you prefer). The ham should
be approximately the size of bacon bits.
5. 1 tbs salt (or to taste)
6. pinch of grated nutmeg- less than 1 tsp
8. 2.5 cups bread crumbs
9. 3 cups of olive oil
1. On medium-high heat, fill a boiling pot with butter and flour.
2. Mix the two with a whisk without ceasing. Be careful that the batter
3. Pour the milk into the pot little by little. After pouring in a little at a
time, mix until all the milk is absorbed and the batter has thickened,
and then add more milk.
4. Once all the milk has been used, add jamón, salt, and nutmeg.
5. Keep mixing until the batter is thick like sludge (sorry for the
unappetizing visual) and all the clumps are out.
6. Turn off the heat and pour into casserole dish.
7. Once the batter has cooled down a bit, put it in the refrigerator and
leave it until all of the batter is chilled. This could take around 1 hour. You also have the option of storing the batter for a day or two until you’re ready to fry them.
8. Take the batter out of the fridge and form into balls (they are really more tube-shaped than circular). They can really be whatever size you’d like, but they are typically about 2 inches long and one inch wide (think the size of mini corn dogs).
9. Crack and whisk egg in a small bowl.
10. Soak the croquetas in the whisked egg and then dip them in the
breadcrumbs until they are completely coated. You can repeat this
process 1 more time if you prefer a more bready, crunchy exterior.
11. Put the olive oil in a small boiling pot on medium-high heat.
12. Place a few croquetas at a time in the oil and fry them until they are
13. Place the fried croquetas on a paper towel inside a serving dish so that
the paper towel can absorb some of the excess oil.
14. TADA! You have your croquetas.
*The nutmeg is optional. It gives the croquetas a little bit of a sweeter taste, which isn’t very typical in croquetas. I personally prefer them without the
nutmeg. Also, feel free to use whatever type of breading with whichever type of spices mixed in that you enjoy.
* Just something to keep in mind: I think bacon would be a bomb choice for croquetas!