Croquetas de Jamón Serrano
Croquetas are one of Spain’s most popular tapas which appear on menus all over the country. Make sure they are ‘Croquetas Caseras’ (home-made) before ordering as there are too many places these days serving up croquetas from a plastic bag in their freezer which they bought at the local supermarket.
The fresh ones are so much better. In this particular recipe I’ve explained how to make ‘Croquetas de Jamón’ which involves making a béchamel sauce containing Serrano ham. There are, however, many variations on the Spanish croqueta which you could equally stuff with prawns, fish, boiled egg, chorizo or chicken. Familiarise yourself with making this recipe then you can experiment with all kinds of variations further down the line.
Makes about 20 or 24 croquetas which serves as a tapa for 6 people
- 120g salted butter
- 120g plain flour
- 1 litre whole milk, at room temperature
- 200g jamon serrano, diced small
- A pinch of nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- About 200g breadcrumbs – this is not an exact measurement
- Oil for deep frying
Cooking Method Part 1: Béchamel-Jamón Sauce
Making croquetas takes quite a bit of preparation and it is a good idea to do this first part a day in advance.
Melt the butter in a medium sized pan over a medium heat. A non-stick pan is a good idea if you have one.
Now start to slowly add the flour, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps developing until you have added it all and have a smooth texture. It’s very important that you keep the pan at a medium to low temperature and stir constantly in order not to burn the butter or the flour. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes and hopefully it should turn a golden colour.
Now add the milk little by little, continuing to stir constantly until all of the milk has been added. The sauce will start to thicken and you must continue stirring it until you have a lovely, smooth, thick bechamel sauce. This should take about 20 minutes. Now add the diced jamon serrano and a pinch of nutmeg and continue stirring for about 10 minutes more. Taste and add a little salt if necessary. You may not need to add salt as the jamon serrano will be fairly salty. Don’t be tempted to cut this process short as you need your mix to be thick in order to shape the croquetas.
Use a little oil or butter to lightly grease a large bowl and pour your bechamel mixture into it. Leave it uncovered for about an hour until it is cool enough to go in the fridge, then cover it with cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.
If you don’t have time to leave the mixture in the fridge overnight then you should leave it there for a minimum of 4 or 5 hours.
Cooking Method Part 2: Making the Croquetas
Now break the eggs into a bowl and whisk them with a fork. Pour the breadcrumbs on to a dry, flat plate and spread them out evenly.
At this stage I line a baking tray with cling film and sprinkle a little flour over it. This is where I put each of the croquetas once formed.
Take the béchamel-jamón mix out of the fridge. Put some flour on your hands to stop the mix sticking to them too much.
I use a bit less than a tablespoon of mix to make each croqueta and I would suggest that you don’t use more than this. You could in fact use a little less. Form this into a croqueta shape ie a log shape and place it on the baking tray, but don’t worry too much about the shape. This is a very messy process so I wash my hands after every 4 or 5 croquetas and put more flour on them.
Once all of the mix has been used you have to then bread the croquetas. Dip them in the beaten egg and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. You may have to reshape them a little at this stage. Place them on another baking tray or flat plate. Again I wash my hands after every few.
You now have to fry the croquetas in batches. Before starting this you should heat your oil to a high temperature and preheat your oven to a medium temperature that will allow you to keep the first batches of croquetas warm while you cook subsequent ones.
It is much easier to fry the croquetas in a pan with deep oil so that they are fully covered while frying. If you have to use shallow oil you will have to turn them which can be a bit tricky as they are quite soft.
Once your oil is hot, start to fry the croquetas in small batches. If they are completely covered by the oil you should fry them for about 3 or 4 minutes, if not then turn them after about 2 or 3 minutes and then fry them for a further 2 or 3 minutes until they are a golden colour. Remove them from the pan allowing any excess oil to drip back in before transferring them to the oven where they can be kept warm whilst you cook the next batch.