As most of you know, croquetas, are a typical “tapa” in Spain. They are basically a thickened bechamel sauce, with various flavourings (most often cured ham: if you are lucky “jamón ibérico” though most likely just “jamón serrano”) coated with breadcrumbs and fried. The resulting fritter if served at once, should be crunchy on the outside (and not greasy) and creamy, meltingly soft on the inside bursting with flavour. Most often than not, this is not the case! Most restaurants now recur to the industrial frozen version (which could be good…but usually are not!) which has an evident excess of flour and with a deceptive flavour; bland in most cases as a result of little amount of “flavourings” or poor quality ones.
That said, though it can be time-consuming to prepare, it is very rewarding as a lot can be made ahead, be frozen and then fried from frozen to convenience. They are (deceptively) simple to make, but once you get the key points right, it really is a piece of cake. Though as with most dishes, I do like to take my time to get the most out of the ingredients in terms of flavour and texture. I think that with cooking in general you’ve got to take your time, not necesarily because it is time-consuming, but because you have to have all your senses in to get the most out of it. At least that’s how it is for me, it is amazing how things can turn out when I have a bad day and I get in the kitchen because “I have to” but I’m not really in the mood to cook. Things most likely will come out “just ok” (at least for me) or something simple might turn into a nightmare as I’m not really focusing on what I’m doing and I keep having to “fix” mistakes. On the contrary, when I’m doing what I want, it just flows and the results are more than evident!So, if possible, try to put that little time aside and be willing to cook to get what you want…it will most likely show in the results!
Anyway, about the croquetas…I have already published a more general post on croquetas, using cured ham as a flavouring. So the basic method is there, but here is my all-time favourite croqueta recipe flavoured with boletus! It is true that I do love this mushroom, it is one of my favourites, it not my favourite, but the resulting croqueta has a delicate flavour, evident, though not overwhelming. The creamy bechamel is tanned from using the hydrating liquid, so less mushroom as such is needed to give the right amount of flavour. A work mate suggested using a bit of another (cheaper) mushroom to give it more of a bite within the meltingly soft bechamel and it worked wonders. So, for little money you get a full of flavour “croqueta” to fry straight from your freezer as guests come or as you got a craving! I hope you like it as much as we do…I can only tell you that everyone else that tries it falls in love with it!;)
(for about 50 medium sized croquetas)
800ml of milk
250ml of water (to hydrate the boletus and obtain 200g of flavoured water)
80g of mild-flavoured olive oil
80g of unsalted butter
175g of flour (you can use 160g for softer ones or up to 180g for denser ones)
1 medium sized leek
30g of dehydrated boletus mushrooms
150g-200g of fresh oyster mushrooms (or another inexpensive and mildly flavoured mushroom…mainly for texture)
salt & freshly milled black pepper
some semolina to coat (or flour, if not available)
1 egg to coat
breadcrumbs to coat*
*If you can get panko breadcrumbs, I’d go for them, for a crunchier coating. But this time I made my own by simply grating stale white bread (ideally without the crust)with a coarse grater and sifting through a thick colander to remove larger bits…although not as large as panko flakes, it was fairly close and I definately prefer it over fine crumbs.
To begin, hydrate the mushrooms by just covering with the water from the recipe. I use little water to concentrate the flavour and then add that to the milk, which adds creaminess. When soft, strain and weigh or check that you got the right amount of water: about 200g, otherwise add a bit more milk.
Chop up both mushrooms into smaller pieces and stir fry over high heat with very little oil, first the oyster mushrooms, then add the boletus.
They should just get golden, which will add more flavour into the bechamel. It is important to not use excess oil or to strain it at the end, or else if added to the cooked bechamel, that oil will separate giving a light “split” look. Then, just reserve to add later. Sorry about these photos, but they were taken at night, so the colours are so-so and there are shades everywhere!
Now with the leek “sofrito”, chop the leek as finely as possible. I first cut it in manageable pieces lengthwise, then slice it finely into a julienne and then cut that in brunoise.
Slowly fry it in the olive oil until very soft, but not coloured. Then, add the butter to melt to prepare the roux.
Add the flour and cook it over low heat for a while to get the raw taste out. Then add the milk+boletus flavoured water constantly whisking to blend it and avoid lumps until it’s completely homogeneous. At last incorporate the sautéed mushrooms.
Then, bring it slowly to a boil, constantly stirring to avoid it sticking to the bottom until it completely comes apart from the sides forming a denser dough-like batter.
Pour onto a tupper or mould to set, ideally until the next day. When it’s gained consistency, cut pieces out and roll them sprinkling a bit of semolina or flour. I’ve just realised that semolina works excellent as it sticks less, so you avoid adding excess flour which gives a doughy flavour and aids in adding crunchiness after frying.
Get ready 1 beaten egg which a tad of milk or water to make a bit liquidy without diluting it too much, a small frying pan and a tray of the breadcrumbs (the larger, the more comfortable to work with).
Roll the chunks of dough out and cut to the desired size and round them over the surface as if you were working with playdough. If you like the typical croqueta shape, just roll the balls a bit pressing on the center.
Place a few at a time on the pan and pour a bit of egg and sauté them until they are completely covered with egg and drop over the breadcrumbs. The great thing about this method, other than saving on egg (less than one egg for the whole recipe!) is that it’s very clean, as only the amount of egg needed to coat the croquetas is used, so when they are poured on the breadcrumbs, there’s no leaking of egg. So, you don’t need to keep sifting the crumbs.
Place the finished croquetas on a tray or large tupper side by side and freeze. Then, when frozen you can pack them in ziplock bags.
When you want to serve them, fry from frozen…
…serve and enjoy!!