The following recipe is from the May 26 edition of our weekly recipe newsletter. To receive this newsletter in your inbox, sign up here!
The croquetas de jamón served at tapas bars have always been among my favorite small plates. And I had always assumed that their deliciousness came from the fact that they were full of salty Serrano ham and deep fried. It wasn't until thumbing through the pages of The Book of Tapas by Simone and Inés Ortega that I realized there was another factor that contributed to the incredible tapa that is the Ham Croquette: béchamel sauce.
The gooey insides of the croquettes are made from a ham-studded béchamel that has been chilled to the point where it is easy to mold into rounds, and then coated in bread crumbs and fried. The frying liquefies the béchamel and gives these croquettes that great creaminess when you bite into them. If you chose to make these great little tapas at home make sure to give them sufficient cooling time once out of the fry oil. The wait might seem like forever, but it will prevent some not very tasty croquette-related mouth sears.
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups bread crumbs
- Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- Fresh or fried parsley sprigs (see Note, optional)
- 7 ounces York ham, very finely chopped, or 5 ounces Serrano ham, finely chopped
First, make a béchamel sauce. Heat the sunflower oil in a pan. Add the butter and when it has melted, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in the milk, a little at a time, and cook, stirring constantly, until the béchamel sauce thickens. Season with salt and stir in the ham, then spread the mixture out in a large, shallow dish to cool for at least 2 hours. Using 2 tablespoons, shape scoops of the mixture into croquettes. Finish forming the croquettes with your hands.
Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Spread out the bread crumbs in another shallow dish. Roll each croquette lightly in the bread crumbs, then in the beaten egg and finally in the bread crumbs again, making sure that each one is evenly covered. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or deep pan to 350 - 375°F, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Carefully add the croquettes, in batches of about 6 at a time, and cook until crisp and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a large colander set over a baking pan and place in a warm oven until all the croquettes have been cooked. Serve immediately on a dish garnished with sprigs of fresh or fried parsley.
Note: To prepare fried parsley as a garnish, tie parsley sprigs together with thread and pan-fry in moderately hot oil.