Once we got our deep fryer fired up, we knew we must make croquetas. You will find croquetas in just about every bar and household in Spain. They are just breaded and fried bechamel sauce, sometimes with meat or vegetables, sometimes plain. Crispy on the outside, creamy in the middle. The first time I visited Luisito in Spain, he greeted me at the airport with a batch he made himself. ¡Què buen partido!
They are slightly time consuming, but easy to make. You may even make a big batch freeze most of them to fry later. You make a bechamel sauce, add cooked meat of vegetables if you like, then chill it for a few hours, preferably overnight. the next day the sauce will be very firm and easy to shape and fry. Most croquetas I have had in Spain were plain, but at a bar in Granada called Bar Oliver, we had them with shreaded chicken and jamon. Those are now my favorites. For this batch, I used the bechamel recipe from a great comprehensive Spanish cookbook called The New Spanish Table.
Start by melting butter with some olive oil over medium-low heat, then dump in the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula until a smooth past forms, about 1 minute.
Increase the heat to medium-high and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth, then continue to cook, stirring constantly until it is thick and smooth, a couple minutes more. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
At this point you may stir in the cooked, minced meat of vegetables. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill overnight (or a least 4 hours).
When ready to cook, prepare your fry mix. Put about 1 cup flour in a shallow dish, 2-3 beaten eggs in another dish, and about 1 cup of bread crumbs in another. Scoop out some bechamel and form into little logs about 2 inches long (or smaller, of you like).
Dredge in the flour, shaking off excess, then coat with the eggs, then dredge in the crumbs, shaking off excess. Place on a plate, and heat the vegetable oil to about 350 (in a deep fryer, or a deep skillet with about 3/4 of an inch deep of vegetable oil).
Fry these babies up, turning them so they cook evenly on all sides, until they are a nice golden brown. Let cool slightly on paper towels, or a parchment lined plate. Bite into the crispy crust and enjoy the creamy center.
2 Tab. olive oil
4 Tab. butter
1/3 cup AP flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Salt, pepper and nutmeg