A couple of years ago I spent a month in Barcelona studying spanish. It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful! I’d love to go back, and I plan on it, once I have the time and the money for a plane ticket… Anyways, while I was there, I was staying with my Aunt’s mother-in-law, Rosa. She’s a super-cool Spanish woman – kind, funny, stylish, an artist… not to mention a wonderful cook! She didn’t show it, but I must have gotten a little annoying hovering over her in her tiny kitchen, trying to memorize everything she was doing. I would watch her cook, then run over to my room to write down what she was doing, then back to the kitchen so I wouldn’t miss the next steps. My notes are… helpful, but definitely express my flustered state. Here’s my attempt at one of Rosa’s specialties, Croquettas.
You may already be familiar with Tapas, but I will explain what they are anyways. I honestly am not extremely familiar with them, so I apologize if my description is a little off. To my understanding, Tapas are little dishes that are served in Spain, often times with drinks, but also can be just as a snack. Simple marinated olives are common and often complimentary in bars, but tapas dishes range from Potatoes with Sauce to Fish Salads to much more complicated things that do not come to mind at the moment. These Croquettas are a wonderful Tapa; lightly fried and crispy on the outside while soft on the inside. This recipe makes a pretty large amount, so you can freeze them after breading and save them for a light dinner with salad. Or use them as an easy appetizer when you have company over. Or not save any at all and eat them all at once. It’s up to you. I don’t judge.
3 lb Chicken, quartered, or Chicken Pieces
1 to 2 lb Beef, some tender cut unless you want to cook it for hours
2 Large Tomatoes, quartered
2 Sweet Onions, quartered
2 to 4 Bay Leaves
4 to 6 Garlic Cloves, smashed
White Wine, or substitute*
3 tbsp Flour
3 tbsp Olive Oil
About 1 cup Milk
Salt and Pepper, to taste
3 Eggs, Beaten
First, cook the meat for the Croquettas: You will need two pots, one for the Chicken and one for the Beef. In each pot, over high heat, heat enough oil to coat the bottom. Add the Meat and let it cook on one side for 30 sec. to a minute before flipping and repeating on the other side. Remove from heat and add to each pot: 1 Quartered Tomato, 1 Quartered Onion, 1 to 2 Bay Leaves, 2 to 3 Garlic Cloves, and Salt and Pepper to taste. Return both pots to low heat. Once some liquid has formed on the bottom of the pots, add a generous splash of Wine. Return to a simmer and cover over low heat, until the Meat is cooked through and tender (for the Chicken, this will probably take 30 to 45 minutes. Depending on the Beef you use, it could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours). Shake the pot occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.
While the meat is cooking, make the Béchamel Sauce: In a saucepan, make a roux of the Flour and Olive Oil: Heat the Oil in the pan and add the Flour, stirring and making sure that the flour does not burn. Slowly add the Milk while stirring, making sure that there are no lumps of flour. Continue to cook for a minute or so, you want the mixture to have the consistency of a thick chowder. Mix in the Black Pepper, and Salt if you would like. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Once the Meat is cooked, remove the meat and onions from the pot and transfer to a bowl to cool. You may keep the sauce for a later use, or discard. It will not be needed in making these Croquettas. Once cooled, remove the Chicken meat from the bones and discard the bones. In a blender or food processor, puree the beef, chicken, and onions together.
Form the Croquettas: with one or two spoons, make the shape of the Croquetta with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Then coat with the Beaten Eggs and then with the Bread Crumbs. Set aside on a plate, and repeat until all of the mixture is used. At this point, you can freeze them if you’d like.
To cook the Croquettas, generously coat a pan in Oil. When the oil is heated, add the Croquettas and cook for a minute or so on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Transfer them carefully to drain on paper towels before serving.