I LOVE CROQUETAS. Croquetas are croquettes, usually made with leftover ham, but now a days, you can find them filled with anything your heart desires. I have had cheese, spinach, pine nuts and raisins, beef, onion, fish…..the list goes on.
I have eaten croquetas since I was a kid, and I think my obsession started because my parents really didn’t buy or make them. In Miami it is a Cuban thing, and the only time I would get to eat them is when I went to sleep at my Uncle Ernest and Aunt Myra’s house. We used to have them for breakfast. Sooooo good.
Now, call me stupid, but I had no idea that croquetas was a Spanish thing. When I first landed in Spain, and saw that every single restaurant had a croqueta on the menu, I had an “A-ha!” moment. Croquetas originally are made with left over chicken or pieces of Jamon mixed with a thick béchamel, then coated with breadcrumbs and fried. The ham ones are still my favorites. I’m not so sure about the chicken. I decided to make them with some shiitake, because I had some dried in my fridge, kind of just staring at me every day.
Croquetas are fairly easy to make, but they are laborious and time-consuming. This is probably something you might want to do on a rainy Sunday, (as I did) and make a lot. They freeze really well, and as all things, the home-made versions are much better than store-bought, which usually has a very low ham to béchamel ratio, favoring the latter. And once you get the knack, then the possibilities are endless!
So here’s what you’re going to need:
2 handfuls (sorry, I didn’t measure other than that) dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked and strained, reserving 1 cup soaking liquid, then minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely minced
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour, more for dusting
2 cups milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
Breadcrumbs, for coating. In this recipe, I used Panko (Japanese Style Breadcrumbs)
In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, shiitake and onion. Saute until the mushrooms and onions are softened, about 20 minutes. Make sure all the water from the mushrooms has evaporated too. Take off heat and set aside.
In a stockpot over low heat, melt the butter and add your flour and mix well, to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Mix the milk with the cup of soaking liquid, and in a slow stream add to the roux, whisking constantly. Stir until very thick, about 25 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and mix well. Spread out on a plate, and let it cool to thicken even more.
Now, on your counter line up the plate with the filling, the bowl with the beaten egg, the bowl with the breadcrumbs, and a baking pan to place them on. Dust your hands with flour, and grab a bit of the mushroom filling, roll into a ball or a log shape, dip them in the eggs, and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Continue to do that in order until all your filling is gone. If needed wash your hands in between. If you are not using immediately, you can freeze them in an airtight container for up to a month.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan with olive oil, when it is hot but not smoking, fry your croquetas about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Turn over and repeat. Place on a plate lined with paper to soak the excess oil. Serve hot.
From my kitchen to yours,