Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Croquetas de Jamón {Ham Croquettes}

Let's rewind to 1985 for just a minute. {Minus the clothing choices & hairstyles. Yikes.}

I am 4 years old. A tiny version of my current self with one common interest: croquetas de jamón.

At a Cuban birthday party, where most of the children are playing party games, eyeing the birthday cake, or finding ways to get into mischief, I am nowhere to be found in the aforementioned mix. I know better than that.

You could be sure to find me set up next to the food tables, happily munching on croquetas. {If it's a Cuban party, there are croquetas. It's just a given.}

Golden brown nuggets of pure, hammy heaven.

As an adult, I've learned to mingle politely, sample other food offerings, and take only a reasonable amount for my own plate {for the most part}.

But I've got to tell you, croquetas are still a major weakness for me.

Though I'm not usually a fan of anything deep fried, I decided to attempt these anyway because I could not fathom sharing Cuban recipes without including croquetas, even if it meant possibly burning myself beyond recognition. I am terribly frightened of searing hot oil. {These were the last things I fried. That was a long time ago.}

I am happy to say that I neither burnt myself, nor set anything aflame in my kitchen. And the final result brought me back to the salty, smoky treats that I remember fondly.

You might find me making friendly conversation at a Cuban party today, but don't be fooled; those croquetas are still calling my name. If you need me, you know where to find me.

Croquetas de Jamón {Ham Croquettes}
Adapted from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen Cookbook

1 stick butter
8 teaspoons flour
2 cups milk, warmed
3 ham steaks {approx 3 cups}, finely ground in food processor
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 to 2 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs
Canola or Vegetable Oil, for frying

In a large, deep skillet, melt butter. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add heated milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Simmer until mixture is thickened {should coat the back of a spoon}.

Add ground ham, lime juice, parsley, salt, and pepper and combine. Allow to cook for 3 to 5 more minutes, until mixture is thick. Remove from heat.

Pour mixture into a heat safe bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and allow to chill thoroughly, approximately 2-3 hours or overnight. If your mixture does not thicken enough to be able to handle and shape, you may need to add 1/2 to 1 cup bread crumbs to thicken it up.

Set up a breading station with beaten egg in a shallow dish and bread crumbs in another. Line a sheet pan or platter with foil.

Using a tablespoon sized scoop, shape ham mixture into croquettes {about 1 1/2 inches long, 1/4 inch in diameter}. Dip each croquette into beaten egg, then roll in bread crumbs. Set on lined pan. Repeat until all ham mixture is used. {About 45 croquettes}

{Croquettes can be refrigerated overnight until ready to fry. In fact, I think they hold up better this way.}

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Heat about 2-3 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed skillet to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with paper towels. 

Add croquettes to hot oil in batches of about 5-6 at a time, turning often, and fry until deep golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto paper towels to drain of excess oil.

If not serving immediately, keep croquettes warm in the oven until ready to serve. Alternatively, you can cool croquettes to room temperature, then reheat in a 350 degree oven {minus paper towels} for about 8 to 10 minutes before serving.


Anonymous said...

This is spanish, not cuban... O.o

The Kitchen Prep said...

Hi there! You're right, Croquetas de Jamón can be found in Spain as well, often made with Jamón Serrano and other various ingredients. In fact, croquettes of all different kinds are popular in many cultures {and boy am I glad because they're so tasty!}. The recipe for croquettes posted here came from a Cuban cookbook, and are the type that I grew up eating from Cuban bakeries and restaurants. I'm sure that somewhere along the line, a Spaniard taught a Cuban how to make these delicious little treats and the rest was history! :) Thanks for bringing it to my attention & thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

These look great- thanks for posting this! I also grew up going to birthday parties and hovering over the table with the mini-pastelitos and croquettas, yum!

The Kitchen Prep said...

You're welcome! Ah, yes, the mini-pastelitos. Another favorite! In fact, those inspired a post that will be coming later this week... stay tuned! Thanks for reading. :)

Anonymous said...

Dianna. It looks delicious! I have one question: What kind of bread crumbs do you use? Do you make them yourself? If so how do you do it?

Thank you! Corinita

Dianna M. said...

@Corinita - Thank you! I used store bought breadcrumbs for these, I believe they were Vigo brand, plain {no seasoning}. You could certainly use homemade breadcrumbs, but these are pretty labor intensive as it is. :) Please let me know how they trn out for you if you try them! :)

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