You'll need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead.
"Croquetas are a classic way to use up leftovers from dishes such as cocido (stew), Spain's national dish. Mum would use the leftover bits of chicken, beef and pork from the cocido, shred them finely with her hands and fold them through a gently bubbling croqueta mixture. No family gathering would be complete without these on the table. This is a more refined version using jamón Ibérico, always made fresh and served hot. The crunchy exterior of breadcrumbs conceals a smooth velvety texture holding the rich flavour of the jamón. At MoVida we also make them with smoked eel, poached chicken or seasoned beef and pork. Prawn and egg are popular too. It's also a dish that can be neatly transformed for vegetarians, who appreciate the buttery béchamel, laced with garlic chives or mushrooms. Once mastered, the thick béchamel becomes a base that can be played around with and manipulated many ways by the inquisitive cook." - Frank Camorra, MoVida
- 2 onions
- 8 whole cloves
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1.25 litres milk (5 cups)
- 175 gm butter, coarsely chopped
- 320 gm plain flour
- 75 gm cornflour (½ cup)
- 200 gm jamón Ibérico, finely diced
- 6 hard-boiled eggwhites, finely chopped
- ½ tsp finely grated nutmeg
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 300 gm fine breadcrumbs (see note)
- For deep-frying: vegetable oil
- 1Take 1 onion and using the sharp end of the cloves, pierce through the bay leaves and into the flesh of the onion. Combine in a saucepan with milk, bring to the boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, cool to just warm (it must be cool or the following mixture will become lumpy), remove studded onion and discard.
- 2Finely chop remaining onion. Melt butter in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat, add onion and sauté for 5-10 minutes or until translucent (don’t allow onions or butter to colour). Add 160gm plain flour, a little at a time, mixing continuously, using a wooden spoon, until smooth, add cornflour and mix until smooth and silky. Add infused milk, a little at a time, stirring continuously, making sure that the milk is completely amalgamated before adding more, cook for 5 minutes, then add jamón. Continue cooking for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture is the consistency of double cream (resist the temptation to scrape up anything caught in the bottom of the pan that might colour the sauce). Add eggwhite, nutmeg and 1 tsp sea salt. Transfer to a wide tray, cover closely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- 3Using clean, lightly floured hands, take a heaped tablespoon of jamón mixture, roll in remaining flour, shape into a croqueta, dip in beaten egg, roll in breadcrumbs, shaking off excess, and place on a tray. Repeat with remaining mixture.
- 4Heat oil in a deep-fryer or deep saucepan to 175C and cook croquetas, in batches,
for 3-4 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden. Drain on absorbent paper, scatter with sea salt and serve immediately.
Note Frank Camorra uses Japanese panko breadcrumbs, which produce a crunchier result than normal crumbs. They're available from Asian grocery stores and select supermarkets.