Croquetas are one of the many reasons that I could never become a vegetarian. These gooey, creamy balls of rich béchamel sauce, dotted with jamón and chicken and covered in a crispy coating have got to be one of Spain’s greatest gifts to the world.
As with many Spanish dishes, croquetas raise up leftovers to a glorified place superior to the original meal. Traditional croquetas are made from the leftovers of cocido – a typical Spanish stew made from every pork product under the sun, chicken, veggies and chickpeas. Cocido is an awesome hat-trick dish as one cocido produces three meals – sopa de fideos (noodles cooked in the cocido broth), cocido (meat, chickpea and veggie stew) and croquetas made from the leftover broth and meat.
As cocido is more of a winter dish, we used a homemade chicken stock as the base for our croquetas, combined with jamón and cooked chicken pieces. Croquetas are time-consuming and fiddly, but I promise you that they are worth it. Once you have the croquet technique down, there are so many variations that you can try – why not add tuna, hard-boiled egg or wild mushrooms?
Ingredients (makes around 20 croquetas)
(For the croqueta mixture)
150g cooked chicken
2tbsp olive oil
3tbsp plain flour
375ml cocido/chicken stock (homemade ideally, or made from a stock cube)
250ml semi-skimmed milk
salt and pepper to taste
(For the outer coating)
120g of panko breadcrumbs
- Cut the jamón, chicken and onion into very small pieces (less than ½ cm square).
- Add the oil and onion to a large saucepan over a medium heat. Cook the onion until translucent – around 5 minutes.
- Add the small pieces of chicken and jamón to the saucepan and stir well. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the flour to the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Cook for around 3 minutes, stirring constantly to get rid of any lumps.
- Add the stock and milk to the saucepan. Cook for about 5 minutes, continuing to stir constantly until thick.
- Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste (if you use a stock cube, you may find that you don’t need to add any salt at all.
- Pour the mixture onto a large flat surface such as a plate, casserole dish or a Tupperware container. Spread the mixture evenly across the container. Cover with clingfilm and leave to cool down to room temperature.
- When the mixture has reached room temperature, place it in the fridge and leave for at least 7 hours, ideally overnight.
- When the croqueta mixture has been in the fridge long enough, preheat the oven to 220 °C (430 °F)
- Before opening the bag of panko breadcrumbs, use a rolling pin or heavy object to break down the panko into much smaller pieces. Open the bag and pour into a wide bowl or tray. In another bowl, beat the eggs well.
- Remove the croqueta mixture from the fridge – it should be totally solid. Take tablespoon-sized pieces of the mixture and roll them gently in your hands until you get a small cylinder about 5cm long.
- Dip each individual croqueta into the beaten egg, and then dip it into the breadcrumbs.
- Cover a large oven tray with foil and brush with olive oil. Place the croquetas on the tray and bake at 220 °C for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Turn the croquetas over after 15 minutes to make sure that both sides get nice and crispy!
- Serve hot from the oven as part of a tapas selection, or with a green salad as a light meal!