GCC: Menu 18 - Chicken Croquettes

The Gutsy Cook menu this week included a favorite of mine: Chicken croquettes or as they are called in Spain “Croquetas de pollo”.  Because, while most of Latin American has their own version of this dish.  The Spaniards version is the core of all the what-to-be croquetas.

These little dreamy morsels are eaten all over the country.  They are served in chic wine bar, in Tabernas, expensive restaurants, in cheap dives and they are all mouth-watering good.

I mean, how – unless you’re a poultry-hater — can you not fall for something that’s crisp outside, creamily inside and you can eat with your fingers?

I totally love them.

The standard procedure for classic croquettes is to make a thick milk-butter-and-flour béchamel sauce, add the minced or shredded chicken with other flavors of choice and chill it into solidity. Then you form your shapes, bread them and fry them.

Here’s what to do to make 16, four-bite croquettes. You need to make the mixture a good five hours before serving or the day before which is ideal.

You can be a total traditionalist and make the chicken from scratch by simply simmering your choice of chicken cuts (usually thighs and legs are the best choice) along with your usual carrot, onion, garlic, celery and spices of your choosing and make your own broth.

Or you can be lazy practical and stop at your local market and pick up a roasted chicken.

I went the lazy practical way. And adapted the original quite a bit, here is my version below.

Adapted from The Kitchen Bible
Yields about 16

  • 5 tablespoon butter
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup of chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • Fresh grated nutmeg to taste
  • 1 cup finely chopped cooked chicken
  • ¼ cup of mince hard salami (you can also use prosciutto-type ham)
  • ¼ cup of grated asiago cheese (or your choice – Parmesan, Gruyere, Emmental are good options)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten and season with a pitch of salt and pepper
  • oil, for deep-frying (canola is a good choice)
  1. Take your cook/bough chicken and pull the meat off the chicken, discarding bones, skin and tough connective tissue. Shred it with your fingers (which will enable you to detect and get rid of any bits of kneecap or tendon), then chop fairly fine with a knife. I combined the meat of the two legs and some breast meat to yield 1 cup meat (you can even go 1½ cup and it would not hurt the dish at all) and then, because I also wanted to give it a bit of spice added some minced hard salami that I had in my in the refrigerator. And because well, I love cheese, I also incorporated about ¼ cup of grated Asiago cheese.  I tasted it and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and gave it all a toss and put aside so I could get started on the béchamel sauce.
  2. Melt 5 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat until bubbling, whisk in the ⅓ cup of flour (I like to take it off the heat when I do this) and mix until it becomes a smooth paste place back on the burner and cook for around 2-3 minutes – constantly whisking.  Gradually add the milk and chicken broth (I use organic store bought). Simmer over very low heat for about ten minutes, frequently stirring/scraping with a rubber spatula or a whisk — it will be quite thick and smooth. Add the tomato paste, taste and then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  3. Add the reserved chicken/salami/cheese mixture to the béchamel, mix together and pour into a bowl or shallow dish (to cool off faster), cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and let it stand about 2 hours in the refrigerator, until completely cooled.
  4. When it is cold and quite solid, line a tray or plate with waxed paper and form 16 two-tablespoon balls of the mixture — you could also make them a little smaller, but my mini-ice-cream scoop happens to be that size. Put this in the fridge while you prepare your three dipping bowls: one with some flour for dredging; one with the beaten eggs; and one with plenty of bread crumbs.  
  5. With your hands, roll each ball into a rough cylinder and then run it in turn through the flour, the eggs and the crumbs. Leave aside while you heat a good two inches of oil to between 325 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit — but no higher than that: you don’t want them to brown too much before they’re heated through.
  6. In batches, add the croquettes and deep-fry, turning frequently, about 3 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Transfer to the paper towels to drain and if serving right away, move to a platter and serve. 

Note: if you are not serving them right away, you can place in a 200°F preheated oven to keep warm.

Other flavor suggestions shrimp, fish, salt cod, cheese, ham, tuna, vegetables etc. Basically whatever you have and whatever you can think of could be turned into these mouth-watering finger food. They are equally delicious hot or cold and are a good filling and easy to eat picnic food, and can be made as a vegetarian tapas with red and green peppers.

You can check out the rest of the gutsy cooks take on there versions by visiting their respective blogs.