Croquetas de la abuelita

CROQUETAS: MY ABUELITA’S LEGACY
I was raised, from the age of two, by my abuelita. She was a hardworking woman who never complained; the “superwoman” of yesteryear who made sure we had varied, nutritious, and delicious meals every day. Dinner was always something to look forward to especially when the surprise was…croquetas! I love croquetas; one dish I need no recipe to follow. These, I must admit, turn out mouthwatering. Although this is a lengthy process, most of that involves waiting for the béchamel to cool.

GO FOR THE MASHED POTATOES
Croqueta comes from the French word croquet (crunch) and it is a cylindrical, breaded, and deep-fried roll. In Spain, they are mostly made with béchamel but other countries (which have also adopted them) use mashed potatoes instead. You may vary the filling by adding fish, seafood, meat, pork, vegetables, or even cheese.

ABUELITA’S CHICKEN CROQUETAS
Yield: Approximately 60
Time: 4-6 hours (mostly unattended)

Ingredients
4 cups extra virgin olive oil (for frying)
5 TBSP butter
¾ cup flour
Pinch of nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
2½ pounds chicken breast tenders or other meat (finely ground or minced)
2-3 cups milk, room temperature
6 eggs
5 cups fresh breadcrumbs (as needed.)

Instructions

  1. Bake the chicken-breast tenders at 360° (25-30 minutes); adding olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Once done, set aside and allow to cool before mincing or grinding. Pour leftover baking juices over the minced meat.
  2. Heat large pan over medium heat. Add butter and allow to melt. As soon as the butter starts to sizzle add the flour; stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk.
  3. Cook until it becomes amber in color—about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the minced chicken and stir until it has a thick consistency. Slowly add the milk until the béchamel mixture thickens again—about 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg while stirring.
  5. Pour the béchamel into a shallow dish; spreading it out to form a thin layer.
  6. Cover the dish with a paper towel so it absorbs the moisture while cooling. Place in refrigerator for 2-4 hours.  (you may let it cool overnight.)
  7. Once the béchamel is cool and hardened, you are ready to work with it.
  8. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and set aside.
  9. Fill a large plate with breadcrumbs.
  10. With a spoon, take some béchamel and work the béchamel by hand to form a long oval roll; about 2 inches long.
  11. Dip in the egg mixture and proceed to bread. Set the croqueta aside on a plate.
  12. Repeat the process till you have used up all the béchamel.
  13. Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan; using enough to cover the croquetas.  Fry in batches of four or five, so that they fry evenly.  When they are golden-brown, scoop out and place on a plate over a paper towel to absorb the excess of oil.
  14. Serve right away as a tapa or along side a salad.

Note: This recipe works well using a deep fryer. You can also prepare this ahead of time and freeze until ready to use. If you are lactose intolerant, substitute milk with unsweetened soy milk.

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