What are croquetas?
Croquetas (pronounced “kroh-KEH-taz”) are the Spanish siblings of croquettes. They can be filled with anything, but the most famous are croquetas de jamon, for which a hearty bechamel sauce is studded with salty, savoury pieces of Spanish ham. Sausages are formed from this, coated with a crispy layer of crumbs and fried. Just like in the rest of Europe, people in Canada especially in Montreal like to eat croquettes as a snack; as tapas.
Naturally, Spaniards also love adding their homegrown top ham, Jamon Iberico, to these delicious croquettes. Other favourites are croquettes with chicken (croquetas de pollo) or cod fillet (croquetas de bacalao). Shrimp can also be used (croquetas de Camarones) and potato mash is sometimes used instead of bechamel sauce. Moreover, everything can be mixed and matched. Potato and salt fish? No problem. Ham and cheese? Classic! You will also come across vegetarian croquetas, filled with spinach and/or cheese, for example.
Even the proud Spaniards don’t deny that the croquette was invented by a Frenchman, but it was the Andalusian housewives, known for their frying skills, who elevated the Spanish croquetas to an art. Croquetas were the perfect dish to show off your excellent skills in the kitchen, without having to buy a lot of expensive ingredients. With a small handful of good ham or some leftover fried chicken, you could go a long way. Croquetas are still the first dish that you learn to cook as a child, growing up in the small villages of Southern Spain.
How to make croquetas
Small cubes of ham, chicken or cod are briefly fried and stirred into a roux with flour. A creamy, thick sauce is cooked with broth and milk and allowed to cool in the refrigerator.
Three bowls are prepared by the chef: one with flour, one with beaten egg and one with breadcrumbs or panko. The stiffened sauce is formed into croquetas; usually balls or small croquettes. These are dipped into flour, beaten egg and crumbs in turn. The resulting unbaked croquetas may be chilled again in the refrigerator before being fried in hot fat.
How to eat
Eat croquetas hot with your fingers. In Spain, they are usually served without a dip.
A small glass of fino (sherry) is perfect to sip with your croquettes. If you want more, combine the croquetas with a number of other tapas dishes to create a full meal.
Deep-fried snacks, who doesn’t love them? For the sweet-toothed, try churros with a cup of thick drinking chocolate. Or compile an international party platter of fried snacks by combining croquetas with cubes of Spanish manchego (cheese) and slices of Turkish sucuk (sausage).