During our trip to Spain last fall we
gorged ourselves on researched many different types of tapas. One very popular kind of tapas that you see everywhere is croquettes with various fillings. They are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside and a great way to finish leftovers: simply mix with some béchamel (white sauce), allow to cool, shape into balls, bread, and deep fry. In Spanish bars they are usually warmed up in a microwave before serving, but of course they are even better when they are freshly fried and still crispy. They will be even more crispy if you use coarse breadcrumbs for the outer layer. You can easily make croquettes that are better than those of most bars in Spain by using more of the ‘expensive’ ingredient in the filling. If you use the proportions below, your croquettes will have a deeper mushroom flavor than at many places in Spain.
Deep fried foods have a bad reputation that is not justified if you use fresh oil and control the temperature. If the oil is hot the outside is fried while the inside is steamed. The escaping steam prevents any oil from being absorbed to the inside. That doesn’t mean this is light fare, because there is butter and olive oil in the filling.
For 16 pieces
300 grams (.66 lb) fresh mushrooms of your choice, chopped
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
9 Tbsp flour
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
750 ml (3 cups) whole milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
3 eggs, beaten
breadcrumbs (preferably both fine and coarse)
oil for deep frying
Heat 3 Tbsp of butter with 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan.
When the butter foams, add a minced onion, season with salt, and stir over medium heat until soft, fragrant and slightly golden.
Add 300 grams of chopped mushrooms. Take into account that they will shrink when you cook them, so don’t chop them too finely.
Stir over medium heat until the mushrooms are cooked. Then add a minced clove of garlic and stir for one minute. In the meantime, warm up 750 ml of milk in the microwave (3 minutes) or a saucepan. The milk should be very warm but not boil.
Sprinkle 9 Tbsp of flour on top.
Stir over low heat for a minute.
Add the warm (tempered) milk all at once. If you temper the milk, you don’t have to add it slowly.
Stir over medium heat…
…until it is very thick.
Stir in a tablespoon of parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight. If the mixture has firmed up well, it is much easier to shape into croquettes. It will cool more quickly in a wide dish like a lasagna dish.
Set up an assembly line of (fine) breadcrumbs, beaten egg, and (coarse) breadcrumbs. Take an egg-sized piece of the mixture, shape it with your hands into a ball or slightly oblong shape, and then cover it first with (fine) breadcrumbs, then with egg, and finally with (coarse) breadcrumbs. Make sure each layer covers everything, or your croquettes will leak.
Repeat until you have used up all of the mushroom mixture.
Deep fry the croquettes in oil of 180C/350F until golden brown. Fry them in batches, so the temperature of the oil does not drop by too much. If you manage to keep the oil temperature close to 180C/350F, the croquettes will hardly absorb any oil.
Allow excess oil to drain on absorbent paper (you could also blot them with absorbent paper to remove more excess oil).
These are excellent with Mencía, a light red from Bierzo or Valedeorras in North-Western Spain. An oaked white Rioja would also work.
Naan bread from India is very suitable for outdoor cooking because it can be cooked on a grill (barbecue).