I absolutely love Spanish ham croquetas. In fact, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Unless of course, you are a vegetarian, in which case I’m pretty sure you might still love mushroom croquetas. Or spinach and pine nuts croquetas. Or even carrot croquetas…
Croquetas are one of the crown jewels of Spanish cuisine and somehow a national symbol of our tapas culture. They are so ubiquitous all over Spain that wherever you go, you will always find a restaurant or a tapas bar serving them.
Yet like it happens with paella, its ubiquity is not a synonym of guaranteed quality and way too often we come across appallingly poor examples of what a perfect croqueta should be. In fact, if you are a regular visitor of Spanish tapas bars, you know what I am talking about because you are probably bored of suffering croquetas which are either too oily, too salted, too hard, too sticky or too soggy.
For me the best ham croquetas are smooth and creamy on the inside, with a very thin and crispy layer on the outside, just thick enough to hold the bechamel. Of course they must contain a generous amount of good iberico ham and have a delicate texture.
Some say that the best croquetas in the world are made by Marisa Sánchez and her son, Michelin-starred chef Francis Paniego. People all over Spain pilgrimage to their Echaurren restaurant in La Rioja to try these delicatessen. Even the legendary food critic José Carlos Capel, once described them as croquetas “on the brink of a disaster”, referring to the apparent fragility of the crispy layer that sometimes cracks, struggling to contain the creamy bechamel.
Today we are not going to show you Marisa’s recipe though. Instead we are going to make some delicious ham croquetas following a recipe by Martín Berasategui, a Basque chef who holds more Michelin-stars across his restaurants than anybody else in Spain… A staggering seven Michelin-stars!!
This recipe might take a bit longer than usual and a bit more effort too. But trust me, the result is well worth the effort. One thing I can guarantee you… as long as you follow the recipe to the detail, you will get some of the best ham croquetas, if not the best ones, that you have ever tasted. Good luck and enjoy!
Click here to buy Spanish Iberico Ham.
- 36 g White Onion – finely chopped
- 36 g Unsalted butter
- 36 g Extra virgin olive oil
- 112 g Plain flour
- 1560 ml Whole milk
- 2 Eggs
- 150 g Iberico ham
- Freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil – to fry the croquetas
- Put an egg into a pan with cold water and bring it to boil. Cook for 10 minutes, peel it and chop finely.
- Place the milk in a separate pot, previously adding a spoon of water to avoid the milk to stick to the bottom when reducing. Reduce it from 1560 g to 1000 g.
- Heat the oil and butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. When the butter melts, add the chopped onion and poach it for around 5 minutes or until soft.
- Turn the heat down, gently stir in the flour and cook for 4-5 minutes making sure it doesn’t burn or get golden. This will prevent the flour to taste raw.
- Put the mixture aside until it gets totally cold. This is crucial to avoid lumps on the bechamel sauce later on.
- Once the mixture is cold, gradually stir in the reduced milk whilst still hot, mixing thoroughly.
- Mix with the hand blender to incorporate the onion and get a smooth, fine and homogenous dough with the consistency of a smooth bechamel sauce.
- Cook for around 12 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Remove it off the hob, add the chopped egg, add the diced ham and mix thoroughly. Season to taste.
- Take a large oven dish and cover it with greaseproof paper. Lay the dough and cover it by pressing clingfilm on to the surface. This will prevent the surface to oxidize and form a skin. Refrigerate overnight.
- Next day, rub your hands with a bit of oil, take the dough off the fridge and make the croquet balls. You can also manipulate the mixture with the help of two tablespoons. Each ball should be roughly the size of a table tennis or a golf ball. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours.
- Put the beaten egg into a bowl, the bread crumbs into a shallow dish and the flour into another. Flour your hands and clap twice to release any excess. We want as little flour as possible to go into the croquetas.
- Roll the balls into cylinders or alternatively use a couple of tablespoons to repeat the operation. Dip the croquetas into the egg and lift out with a fork to release any egg excess. This will help us getting a very fine layer of crust.
- Drop them into the breadcrumbs and coat them thoroughly. Shake the croquetas to release any breadcrumb excess.
- Heat a pan with enough olive oil to cover the croquetas. When the oil begins to shimmer, fry the croquetas in batches until golden. Then lift out with a slotted spoon and serve straight after.
If you don’t want to fry them straight away, put the croquetas in the fridge and take them out an hour before frying them so the centre is not too cold.
You can also freeze them before frying them. Whenever you want to serve the croquetas, just take them out of the freezer and leave them to defrost in the fridge. Fry once defrosted.