What are croquetas de jamón?
Croquetas de jamón are delicious fried croquettes containing a filling made with béchamel sauce, onions, chopped garlic and the famous Serrano ham. It is a typical tapa of Spanish origin that can be enjoyed as an appetizer or accompanied by a salad.
What is the origin of croquetas de jamón?
Bechamel sauce is very old since it already appears in François Pierre de La Varenne’s Le Cuisinier françois published in 1651. His name is dedicated to the Marquis of Nointel, Louis Béchameil.
Like the sauce they contain, the croquetas are of French origin, and name is derived from the French word croquette. This preparation is found in all Hispanic countries but also in India, in Anglo-Saxon countries, Asian countries and the Middle East. Their names differ from country to country but are always inspired by the French word. There are korokke in Japan and kroket in Holland.
Serrano ham or jamón serrano in Spanish is a preparation based on pork certified by the European Union and deposited at the Consorcio del Jamón Serrano Español. The word serrano comes from the Spanish sierra which defines a mountainous region, so it is a mountain ham.
The origin of cured meats in Spain dates back to Antiquity. The peasants took advantage of the winter to transform the pig which they raised on the farm to make provisions for the year. Winter being more conducive to the preparation of cold cuts and cured meats, offering a cold and dry climate. The pork selected for the preparation of Serrano ham is generally white pork or pork of the Iberian breed.
How to make croquetas de jamón
The preparation of croquetas de jamón begins with the making of a bechamel sauce, a French white sauce prepared from a roux, that is to say a mixture of butter and flour to which milk (or sometimes cream) is added. This is called a mother sauce, that is, it can be used as a base for other sauces.
However, for the croquetas de jamón, the béchamel sauce is a bit special since the Serrano ham is chopped and infused directly into the milk. As for the roux, it is garnished with onions and chopped garlic, which pleasantly enhances its taste. Once the roux made from butter and flour has set, pour the milk with Serrano ham and then whisk the preparation over medium heat until the mixture becomes very thick.
Thus prepared, the béchamel sauce should be poured into a rectangular dish lined with parchment paper. It is important to remove any air bubbles contained in the preparation by tapping the dish on the work surface. After a few minutes, the surface should be brushed with a little melted butter. Bechamel sauce tends to crust when in contact with air. Butter avoids this problem isolating it from the air. Once the preparation is very cold, it must be placed in the freezer to firm up perfectly and finally be handled.
Once bechamel sauce becomes cold and compact, it can be removed from the mold, portioned and then shaped into elongated croquettes. The croquetas de jamón are then breaded in the English style, that is to say successively dipped in flour, beaten egg and then bread crumbs. They can thus be deep fried in oil at 350 F (170°C) and put to drain on absorbent paper. Croquetas de jamón are eaten hot or just warm.
There are a wide variety of croquettes, with shapes that can be round, oval or elongated. They are mainly filled with a béchamel sauce preparation containing a garnish.
If it is generally ham, it can also be made of leftover cooked meat such as chicken or even seafood and fish such as cod, tuna, squid or even shrimp as in Belgium. The croquettes can also be garnished with cheese, mashed vegetables like in India or a mixture of spinach, raisins and pine nuts like in Italy.
Do not confuse croquettes and cromesquis. Even if the two preparations are of French origin and look alike from the outside, the filling they contain is different.
Cromesquis contain a salpicon, that is to say a mixture of different elements cut into small dice such as truffles, sweetbreads or vegetables. These are combined together with a reduced sauce such as a Périgueux sauce made from truffles, foie gras and meat juice to which egg yolks are added to give it body. They are also breaded and fried.
At the time of tasting, the inside of the cromesquis is smoother than that of the croquettes. Cromesquis are found in Poland and Russia where the stuffing is often wrapped in a crepe before being fried. This step helps prevent the breading from getting wet. They are usually stuffed with mushrooms.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 2½ cups milk
- 1 clove garlic , chopped
- ¼ onion , chopped
- 4 oz. serrano ham , diced
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (for brushing)
- 1 egg , beaten
- 2 cups flour
- 2½ cups breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- Pour the milk into a non-stick pan, add the pieces of ham and heat. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes and let cool.
- In another non-stick saucepan, heat the butter over low heat, sauté the garlic and onion without browning, but just until tender.
- Add the flour all at once and mix well.
- Cook for about 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. The mixture should be thick.
- Remove from the heat and add the cooled milk and ham mixture in small batches while whisking.
- Rest the pan on low to medium heat, and whisk until you have a thick béchamel sauce.
- Add the grated nutmeg, pepper and salt if necessary, as the ham is already salty.
- Line a 8 x 5 x 2 inches (18 x 13 x 4 cm) rectangular baking dish with parchment paper.
- Pour the béchamel.
- Tap the dish on the work surface to remove bubbles and level.
- Let the sauce sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, then, brush it with melted butter so that it does not crust.
- Let it cool completely.
Once the béchamel has cooled, store the dish for 2 hours in the freezer to facilitate the shaping of the croquetas.
- Take the dish out of the freezer and divide the dough into 10 portions using a knife.
- Shape the croquetas in the shape of sausages.
- Add the flour in a deep dish, the beaten egg in a bowl and the breadcrumbs in another deep dish.
- Roll each croqueta in the flour, then in the beaten egg, drain and finally roll in the breadcrumbs.
- Place on a baking dish lined with parchment paper.
- Once all the croquetas are coated with the breading, heat a large quantity of oil to 350 F (170°C) and deep fry the croquetas on each side, until they are golden brown.
- Drain on paper towels and serve hot.