>> Monday, February 8, 2010
In Spain there are few dishes as traditional as croquetas. Imagine a very very thick bechamel sauce, almost solid, with some garnish added, like crumbled tuna fish. You take pieces and shape them into oval patties, then coat them in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fry them in olive oil like a beignet. Well, there you have croquetas, comfort food at its best, common to all Spanish regions. Also served as a tapa everywhere. And good for absorbing any leftovers in the house, as you can add flaked cooked fish or meat, crumbled cheese... a wide variety of things. This is the typical recipe for which each family has its own version, which is supposed to be the best, of course. It used to be taught from mother to daughter. Or to son nowadays... I hope. The way I prepare croquetas is my mother's, it's understood. And she learnt it from my grandmother. I don't know if it's better or worse than others, but my children love them.
I haven't made croquetas too often, because my mother is kind enough to prepare them for my children, therefore I wasn't really an expert... till now. So the other day I asked my mother to come over to my place and prepare the dough or thick sauce or... I don't know how to call it. And here it is.
Grandma Libia's homemade croquetas
Yields between 36 and 40 croquetas, depending on the size
Melt the butter and heat along with the oil on a large frying pan. When hot, add the flour and stir for it to toast, eliminate the raw flour taste and absorb the fat. Mash the lumps with the back of a wooden spoon, till you have a crumbly mixture and all the fat is absorbed, around 5 minutes. Then add half of the milk and stir continuously for a while, while breaking the lumps and thickening the mixture. Add a table spoonful of salt. When the mixture is thickened a little bit, add the rest of the milk. If too many lumps are left, you can just use a hand mixer to break them and make the mixture more even. Add the tuna garnish, previously drained and flaked, and keep on stirring to thicken. When the mixture starts to separate from the pan walls and it's thick enough to shape it, turn the heat off (yeah, I know this is tricky if you've never seen the real consistency. But you have to be careful, if the dough is too runny, the croquetas will burst the coating on frying... they should be solid enough). Try the salt and add more if necessary (it will be). Add the nutmeg and stir. Pour the whole thing on a shallow dish to cool. Cover with a plastic wrap that touches the surface, so that no crust is formed on cooling.
When the dough is at ambient, take small portions with a table spoon, like in the photos, and use 2 spoons to shape them into oval patties. Beat a 2 or 3 eggs in a container and coat the patties in egg. Then roll them in breadcrumbs. When my sister and I were small we used to help my mother with the coating task. When all the croquetas are prepared, heat the oil in a deep pan. Then fry them in very hot oil (I fry them in a deep-fryer, at maximum temperature of 190ºC). People usually prepare a lot of them and freeze a part for later use (isn't it nice to have a ready-to-be-fried appetizer if you have some people coming unexpectedly?). I love them dipped in a good homemade tomato sauce, like they're served at many bars.
My mother makes better-looking patties than me... but she has a lot of practice in the croqueta-science, which I don't. Anyway, croquetas are always yummy. If you have them for dinner, you should be in your pijamas already, like if you were kids... ;-). Just imagine your mother has just made them for you...
And also I want to send this very traditional recipe to the Culinary Olympics 2010, hosted by Blogger Aid Changing the Face of Famine. BACFF is hosting an event to promote both the sport of food and their mission (to be actively promoting the allevation of world hunger). They invite you to participate and represent your country with a recipe you like. Check here for the conditions to participate!