To make croquetas you need to have one of two qualities or both: patience for being in the kitchen for a prolonged period of time or a weakness for these irresistibly creamy fritters. I am guilty of both, particularly the latter. I cannot resist a well-made croqueta for anything in the world. I am offering some substitutions that will make this dish a bit easier like the rotisserie chicken and store-bought béchamel, but it will still be time consuming. I can say, nevertheless, that every second is worth it. Also, what I do is make about 75 at a time and freeze them. They can be taken directly from the freezer and fried whenever you get a hankering for one of these mini delights.
MAKES ABOUT 75
FOR THE FILLING
2 large onions, very finely chopped
1/4 c olive oil
10 oz or 300 g Spanish Serrano ham, finely chopped
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and very finely chopped (pref. in food processor)
1 L béchamel, homemade or store-bought
FOR THE BATTER
4 c flour (includes 1 c for dusting countertop)
6 eggs, beaten
3 c breadcrumbs
Oil for frying, pref. vegetable
In a large skillet, gently sauté the onions in olive oil for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile you can prepare the rest of your ingredients. Once the onions are very tender and pale golden brown, add the chopped chicken and sauté over med-high heat until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Lower the heat slightly and add the ham then the béchamel. Cook while occasionally stirring until the mixture starts to come away from the sides of the pan and you have a thick paste, about 12-15 minutes. At this point, the mixture needs to cool completely in the refrigerator so that it is easier to handle. I like to put the mixture in a pastry or freezer bag in the refrigerator over night. Once the paste is completely cooled cut a ¾ inch hole in the plastic bag and spread the mixture in long rows over a generously flour-dusted countertop. Cut into 2-inch long pieces (scissors work best) and plunge into the flour, then egg then breadcrumbs. At this point you can fry them in hot oil until all sides are dark golden brown and serve. Otherwise lay them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once the croquetas are frozen they can be stored in freezer bags.
· If you are not freezing the croquetas but storing them in the refrigerator for later, dip them in breadcrumbs again before frying.
· My husband and I like to serve the croquetas with lime or lemon wedges. This is not a Spanish but a Cuban custom we learned in Miami.
· Croquetas are a great way to make use of leftovers or the boiled chicken used to make broth/stock.