I love croquetas… when I was little, my dad used to take us to La España to eat ham croquetas. It was the treat while we were waiting for our Media Noches or Sandwiches Cubanos. And the croquetas needed to be eaten with a squirt of lemon to taste in their prime.
But now that I am vegetarian, I miss eating croquetas. So, in good vegetarian fashion, we need to start making them ourselves.
We got together in my friend Angie’s house to enjoy a whole Spanish feast to celebrate the start of San Fermín – among all the dishes we made, we made these croquetas. Not to worry… you’ll be seeing the rest of the dishes we had in the next few days.
We even got out our Spanish aprons for the ocassion…
We mixed a few techniques… what my aunts in Miami have told me, a few recipes I had found on the internet, the fork-frying technique from Angie’s Cuban mother-in-law Graciela and our daringness to not give up on the first try if things did not turn our exactly as planned. The results were delicious…
1 cup of frozen spinach, measured frozen, thawed and squeezed dry ½ yellow onion, diced small 1 garlic clove, smashed 1tbs olive oil 1 small pat of butter 2 tbs spelt flour About ¾ to 1 cup of milk Salt and Pepper to taste About 1 cup of whole-wheat breadcrumbs Canola Oil for frying
We will be basically making a thick béchamel that we will mix with the spinach, breading and then frying.
- In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, butter, onions and garlic. Sautee them until they become softened. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the pieces of garlic and add the spelt flour and stir all together to form a paste. Move around the saucepan a bit to cook the paste as much as you can to avoid having a raw flour taste afterwards.
- After about 1-2 minutes of cooking the onion/flour paste, slowly add the milk while whisking. Whisking will prevent lumps from forming. Continue whisking once in a while until the mixture starts to bubble. It’ll need to bubble to know how thick the sauce will really be. Add more milk if you believe the sauce is too thick, but it needs to be on the thick side to withstand the frying later.
- Take off the heat and add the dry spinach. Season with salt and pepper again. Mix together well to avoid having big lumps of spinach.
- Take the mixture off the sauce pan to help it cool off. You can place in the refrigerator, if you’d like.
- After the spinach béchamel has cooled, we can start making the croquetas…
- Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow container. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, pour about ½ inch of canola oil and allow it to become hot enough for frying. We always check using a wooden spoon.
- While the oil heats up, we take about 1 tsp of spinach mixture and roll it in our hands to make a ball.
- Drop it on the breadcrumbs and roll around to coat it well on all sides.
- Place breaded balls in the hot oil to fry. It’ll take about 5 minutes to cook on all sides until they’re golden brown.
- The croquetas are delicate so the best way to handle them while frying them is using 2 forks. Use the forks to roll them from one side to another to ensure they cook well on all sides and to take them out of the oil.
- Make sure the first side has cooked enough and is crispy to withstand being moved. If you move them too soon, they will just break and form a sloppy mess on the frying pan.
- Take them off the frying oil and drain them on some paper towels while they cool off a bit.
The croquetas were a real success – we ate them all up before the husbands ever arrived. We had such a great time frying and eating as they came out of the skillet.
Natalia and Mariana tried the croquetas for the first time and I think they were a hit – more with Natalia than with Mariana, but I feel confident I can make these again at home and they will both eat them all up.
These Spinach Croquetas may not be the ones I originally learned how to eat in La España. But, with a little rearranging of the letters, these are also as Spanish as they can be. And a squirt of lemon will not hurt these either…