- If ever you’ve made excess béchamel sauce, you may have wondered how you can use it up.
- Spanish croquetas are small breaded, deep-fried cylinders of filling, usually béchamel sauce.
- They’re quick and easy to make, are perfect for using up leftover béchamel, and they’re delicious.
If ever you’ve made a béchamel sauce for a meal and you end up with leftovers, you may not always know what to do with them.
Referred to as croquettes in France — where the dish originated — Spanish croquetas are small cylinders of béchamel filling. Though they’re traditionally made with ham, many variations of the much-loved recipe have appeared over the years.
They’re then breaded, deep-fried, and can be served as fast food, as a side course, or a snack.
The dish originally started out as a way to use up leftovers from previous dishes like stews or casseroles, but nowadays, they’re one of the most popular “tapas” in Spain, an appetizer often served with a drink.
If you’ve not yet tried making Spanish croquetas, they require only a handful of ingredients and, if you’re speedy, the dough can take as little as 30 minutes to whip up.
How to make croquetas
According to Cocinatis, a website dedicated to authentic Spanish recipes, croquetas are made as follows.
To make the béchamel, Cocinatis’ instructions say to chop 200 grams of serrano ham into small cubes while melting down 110 grams of chopped butter on a low flame. Once the butter is melted, the ham can be added and cooked for two minutes or so, followed by 110 grams of flour.
This needs to be mixed well for a minute before adding in a liter of milk. The mix should be cooked over a medium flame while constantly being stirred with a whisk until it begins to thicken. Once thick enough, the mix can be stirred with a wooden spoon over a lower heat, at which point you can add a pinch of salt and a grated clove of nutmeg. This can then be stirred in and cooked for another 30 minutes.
The béchamel needs to be spread out, covered with plastic wrap, and left to cool down at room temperature for around six hours — then it needs to be left to rest in the refrigerator overnight.
After it’s chilled, the mixture can be rolled into croquette shapes using flour to prevent sticking then coated in three pre-beaten eggs and breadcrumbs. Then they’re ready to be fried in frying pan with a generous amount of olive oil and, when hot, add the croquettes and fry until golden brown.
The experts recommend a thin, smooth filling
One of the keys to making good croquettes is to make a thin, lump-free béchamel, if you don’t already have one.
One way of ensuring you do this is warming the milk a little before adding it to the pan, the reason being that adding cold milk from the refrigerator can be too much of a temperature shock and makes it more likely that lumps will form. It’s important to use whole milk, too.
Sifting your flour into the pan and cooking it properly — taking care not to burn it — before adding the milk is also key.
You also need to use the right utensils
It’s important to choose the right utensils to prepare your béchamel sauce.
The best way of thickening the béchamel, ham, and flour is not to stir the sauce with a wooden spoon but, rather, to thicken it using a whisk.
The reason for this is that, in order to thicken the béchamel sauce and to ensure it comes out smooth, lump-free, and creamy, you need a whisk.
Add the ingredients in the right order
Another tip to make the croquetas like a pro is to take really pay attention to the order in which you’re adding your ingredients.
One of the most common mistakes is to add the ham once the béchamel sauce is ready.
It’s better to fry the meat before adding the flour and milk, so as to release the flavor.
Experiment with fillings or use panko crumbs
For a crunchier exterior, you can double-bread the croquetas by rolling them twice in flour and egg rather than just the once.
Alternatively, you can swap the flour out for panko or Japanese breadcrumbs.
You can even switch the ham out for spinach, mushrooms, chicken, or cod and mashed potatoes.