While honeymooning in Spain, I discovered croquettas, called croquettes in English. Delicious pan fried ovals of potatoes and creaminess. What I originally thought was an addition of cheese, turned out to be a rich bechemel or basic white sauce.
Perhaps the best croquettas were from this busy local bar we found around our hotel in Sevilla. We ate there 3 times in a 2 night 3 day stay, thinking that since we’d found a place we both loved, we might as well stick with a good thing. Kris and Spanish food had not been the best of acquaintances in other cities.
The bar’s name eludes me after a year and a half, perhaps somewhere I’ve kept a sentimental napkin, but it was always busy. The first evening, after snaking our way for several hours on the bus from Ronda to Sevilla, we were famished. This was the first and so far only food serving location in the 4 or 5 blocks that we’d walked, better yet, it was full at 10 pm. Spanish people, like many Europeans have a different dinner time than we Americans are used to. This place was so popular that a woman even squeezed in her entire baby and stroller between the packed guests in order to sit up at the bar and have tapas at 11 pm. She passed mordaditas, little bites, to her daughter who in turn gleefully asked for “Mas.”
Croquettas should be creamy, firm and crunchy on the outside, melt in your mouth goodness on the inside. Though simple in flavor, they are deliciously savory. I tried my first attempts to make croquettas last night to bring to a Superbowl party today. Last night, the first 3 tasters were not as flavorful as I remember them being. I had combined ideas from 2 different recipes, one from Edward Schneider of the New York Times. Since his recipe made no mention of potatoes, I found another that recommended a 2 to 1 ratio of potatoes to bechemal. Lackluster in flavor, Kris suggested that I add Manchego cheese to the mix tomorrow, and a little more salt.
Today I cooked up the rest of the batch after adding about 2/3 cup of shredded Manchego. Always hesitant to add salt, I refrained, thinking the cheese would bring enough salty flavor. The croquettas still do not have the waterfall of creaminess that I remember from Spain, but they are pretty good accompaniments to more flavorful foods. That is a nice way for saying they are still bland. Next time I will try cream instead of 2%, maybe even more cheese, and honestly, I have to get over my slight fear of adding salt to recipes, for the sake of all involved.
Kris says the lesson here is that Spain cannot be recreated. Well…I can sure as hell keep trying. Until next time, I leave you with a good but bland croquettas (Spanish Ham Croquettes) recipe.
UPDATE, post-Superbowl party: the croquettas were a hit, all eaten just as rapidly as the BBQ chicken wings. Everyone said they were so creamy and delicious. Is my memory playing tricks on me with how croquettas tasted?