Crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside, surprisingly addictive, and very easy to make. Croqueta are the perfect bar snack.
Once Franco was gone and with the heady-rush of a building boom unhindered by dreary things like town planning, a new generation of Spanish politician knew how to keep the voter sweet. Swapping a seemingly endless stream of easy loans, linked to a soaring property market, for votes. Jobs for the boys were kept coming, as new airports and restored bullrings fed local pride. Any shyster with a shiny suit could become mayor, as long as he remembered to give a little, before taking a lot.
In Robert Cialdini’s book Influence he sites ‘reciprocity’, the feeling that we need to do something for someone who has done something for us, as a driving force of our default preferences or un-thinking choices. The choices we only rationalise after the event.
I only came in for one drink, but the barman gave me a free snack, so it would’ve been rude to leave without having just one more…
Gifted just as the first round of drinks are nearly finished, Tapas are a Spanish bar’s wink, its nipple flash, that inducement to stick around for one more, just to see what happens.
That ‘just one more drink’ gets you another differently delicious snack. Curiosity about the next Tapa on offer, (we’ve seen it served to the next able), might lead me to suggest we stay for another drink. The barman has now up-sold us into staying all evening.
While pieces of ‘pan catalana’: toast smeared with grated tomato and topped with little slices of Jamon Iberico, are straight out of every foodie’s blog posts about Spain. Nothing could be more ‘tipica tapa’ than Croqueta. Salty, fatty, deliciousness. Made to keep you drinking, and for the recesionista, cheaper than chips to make. Reappearing from the kitchen with a plate of freshly made Croqueta will make you look like some kind of foodie genius and they’re a piece of piss to make.
Leftovers that go together: Peas and ham, Bacon and hardboiled Eggs, Salmon and Watercress, Chicken and Mushroom, Smoked fish and Samphire, Venison and Plumb jam, Turkey and Cranberry, Lamb and Mint sauce, Rabbit and Carrot or for the traditionalist Salt Cod and Potato. You get the idea. I’ve used left-over takeaways before, Jerk Chicken was epic.
Wheat Flour, .00 pasta flour is best, but pretty much any white flour you’ve got in the cupboard will do.
Potato flour, comes in a blue packet you’ll find it in the kosher section of the supermarket, but instant mash works well too.
Milk, water, and/or that left-over bottle of white wine hanging about in the far reaches of the fridge.
Butter and oil – Olive oil is obviously more Spanish but butter makes them taste better
Egg(s) - beaten
Panko – I’ve had Croqueta coated in flour, or coated in breadcrumbs, but nothing crisps-up like Panko. The grated crumbs of a special Japanese bread baked by passing an electric current through the dough, Panko is that crispy coating on those butterflyed prawns in Wagamama. You can always get Panko from an Asian supermarket - buy the biggest bag they’ve got. Panko is like; ammunition, votes, and money, you can never have enough.
Put the oven on – 100-150c is fine
Make a roux sauce, the thickest roux sauce you’ve ever seen.
Heat some butter and oil – a tablespoon of each and four heaped tablespoons of flour. Fry the flour until it is starting to ‘golden’ rather than brown. Add salt then milk, wine, water [or a mix of] and stir like a crazy bitch until it changes consistency, becoming more ‘stretchy’. Pass the paste through a sieve. The roux should now look like a hot dough, or un-rolled pasta dough. Roughly chop your filling/leftovers, stir them in to the mix and leave the whole lot on a windowsill or in the fridge to go stone cold. As your paste cools it will thicken which really helps with the next stage. Patience Grasshopper.
When cold, if the mix isn’t so stiff you can roll it into a sausage shape, add some potato flour and keep stirring and adding until it is. Don’t be tempted to add wheat flour, as it’ll make the Croqueta taste floury.
Dust a board or the countertop with potato flour, roll out your dough into long rolls about the same thickness as Cohiba Robusto [that’s ring gauge 50 aka 19.84mm] and cut into sections the length of a wine cork.
Dust your Croqueta with more potato flour, making sure the cut ends are well covered. Shake off any loose potato flour.
Dip each piece in your beaten eggs, roll in the Panko.
This is when you could put them in the fridge to cook later or even freeze for much later.
Fry them. For the best results use pork fat, but vegetable oil will do. Olive oil won’t work so well as its flavour is ruined at the temperatures you’ll need for proper frying. The name of the game is to achieve a nice, even, golden brown colour. Start with a practice off-cut from your least handsome Croqueta, the oil needs to be just a little cooler than you’d expect. The Croqueta need plenty of room to float about and turn over easily. Putting too many in the pan cools the oil, a one-way ticket to nasty soggy Croqueta. You’re better than that - Patience Grasshopper.
Lift each batch out and put them to drain on a pile of paper towels on the now warmed plate you put in the oven at the beginning. The exterior colour is what’s most important, leaving them to stand in the oven will make them less greasy and insure they’re hot all the way though.
Serve with made [not bought] mayonnaise/aioli and or grated tomatoes with a little garlic.