I’m back from Spain!
It turns out Spanish cuisine has basically nothing in common with Latin America—no rice and beans, hardly any spice, and the only “tortilla” is a potato omelet. Bread is served with every meal, and a glass of wine is literally on their food pyramid.
I didn’t snag too many traditional, secret family recipes on my travels, but I’m planning to cook up quite a few dishes I encountered.
Below is a recipe (from About.com) for Spanish-style ham croquettes, which are fried, breaded, pillow-like, and problematically delicious. I would like to share this delicious problem…with you.
Prep Time: 40 minutes (plus 3 hours in the fridge)
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 3 as a meal or 6 as an appetizer
1/2 cup chicken broth
8 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of ground pepper
Dash of salt
3/4 cup very finely hand-minced ham (about 2 slices)
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons water
Bread crumbs for coating
Olive oil for frying
Heat the 8 tablespoons olive oil in a medium to large saucepan on medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.* Gradually add the milk and the chicken broth, stirring without stopping. This can take up to 30 minutes.
Next, add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and smooth.
Add the minced ham and continue to cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on low heat, continuing to stir. Remove from heat.
Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes and refrigerate at least 3 hours** until mixture is cold. If you are preparing a day or so ahead, you can cover the mixture tightly and keep refrigerated until you are ready to fry the croquettes.
Pour the bread crumbs into a small, wide bowl. Beat the eggs with water in a small, wide bowl. Cover your hands in flour***, then divide the mixture into 1-inch balls and set on a plate so that they are not touching.
Pour enough olive oil in a medium to large frying pan to cover 1/2 inch deep. Heat the olive oil for frying to about 355 F (a little hotter than the boiling point). Dip the croquettes in the beaten egg and coat with crumbs by rolling in the bowl.
Place the croquettes in the hot oil and fry quickly, turning several times, until golden. They will burn if you forget about them for 2 minutes, so keep a close eye on them. Remove the croquettes with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve immediately.
*This recipe uses an olive oil roux, which I find super-duper neat.
** If the mixture is spread out in a thin layer on a flat dish, you will need to refrigerate it for less time. A large glass baking dish works well.)
***I didn’t do this, but y’know…lazy…