Cook the Book

Chicken Croquettes (Croquetas de Pollo) From 'Spain'

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[Photograph: Kevin Miyazaki]

Miniature fried savory patties are some of my favorite small bites. I'm most familiar with hearty arancini and fluffy salt cod fritters, but I'll eat just about anything bite-sized that's served hot from the fryer. And based on the description in Jeff Koehler's new cookbook, Spain, Spanish croquettes offer something a little different.

These croquettes are bound with a thick, buttery cross between béchamel sauce and and eggless pâte a choux dough. This floury base gets mixed with ground meat or fish (in this case, chicken), cooled, and then shaped into cylinders and fried. Because of the abundance of butter in the filling, the hot croquettes offer a creamy, lush interior that gushes out of the crisp breadcrumb coating.

Why I picked this recipe: A tapas spread isn't complete without something fried. Why not these curious chicken-filled nibbles?

What worked: The finished croquettes are a wonderful surprise—the crisp exterior breaks away into a gloriously creamy interior, fragrant with nutmeg.

What didn't: Koehler doesn't give a frying temperature for the croquettes. I successfully fried mine at 350 for about 4 minutes, flipping halfway through. I reheated the oil to 350 between batches.

Suggested tweaks: To make shaping the croquettes easier, I'd recommend cooling the chicken mixture in a square baking dish instead of a bowl. After the mixture has firmed up, you should be able to turn it out of the pan and slice it into small rectangles with a knife sprayed with a little cooking spray. Roll the rectangles into the small cylinders as described. Also, the croquettes taste even better with a little squeeze of lemon right before biting in.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Spain to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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