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Cuban Ham Croquetas

Croquetas de Jamon (Cuban Ham Croquettes)

Croquetas are as close to biting into heaven as we can get. They are fried to crisp perfection on the outside, and moist and soft and salty delicious on the inside. It’s the perfect balance. A Cuban Ham Croqueta has the power to instantly transform your mood, because it may be physically impossible to eat one and not find some sort of happiness.

As with most of the food we have covered on this blog, (Empanada, Arroz con Salchichas, Arroz Con Leche) is a dish that came from necessity and conservation. It was the perfect use for leftover ham or protein, and it’s made with things they have on hand.

My Alita Marta didn’t really cook a lot, but she mastered just a couple of things very well. One of them, was croquetas. Whenever I would open the fridge and see a huge package of ground ham from the butcher I knew croquetas were on the horizon.  

Typically though, my grandmother made croquetas from leftover ham, chicken or fish. Even if it was a small insignificant piece of protein that others would have thrown away, she would transform it into what some would say (myself included) is Cuba’s most delicious snack. 

Ani

There is also so much tradition in Cuban Croqueta making. It’s something that each generation has passed down. Every house has its own spin, its own take. There are houses that make it with bechamel. There are houses that make it with bacalao (cod) or chicken, chorizo, or even just vegetable. That’s the beauty of the croqueta. It can be filled with anything, while still maintaining the heart and soul of it.

I can remember croqueta days being my favorite. I always loved helping my abuela Yaya in the kitchen. On croqueta days she would split my cousins and I up and we would each man a station. We always argued over what station we would take, but ultimately settled quickly because we just wanted the croquetas.

The process of making croquetas can be a little tedious. It’s only because you need some time in between steps to let things settle and cool. You can plan ahead and break it up, or do what Ani does, which is makes a lot at one time. However we would encourage you to try it at least once. Maybe with your mom, tia, Abuela or one of your kids.

Some of Our Tips:

  • We suggest mixing two hams that you like. Ani likes to use Iberico Ham mixed with a simple Boar’s Head because of the balance they bring and it allows you to have control over the taste.
  • Warm your milk for 30-40 seconds in the microwave before adding it to the bechamel. It will help your bechamel get thick.
  • If you like your Croqueta Ration to be Ham > Bechamel- adjust to add a little more ham.
  • If you like your Croqueta Ration to be Ham < Bechamel- adjust to have less ham.
  • You have to let your bechamel settle for at least two hours in the fridge so it can set, and this will make it easier to roll.
  • Add a little water to the egg when you beat it, it will make the breading a little lighter when you fry
  • Use a neutral oil, something like an olive oil will cause it to burn and not brown
  • Use a wire rack to let them drip after frying
  • Use a lime and a little salt at the end to really take it over the top

Good luck as you take your Croqueta Journey- know that no matter what happens it will end happily because there will be croquetas. Anywhere there are croquetas (even badly shaped ones) people are happy.

Croquetas de Jamon (Cuban Ham Croquettes)

Recipe by Abuela's CounterCourse: AppetizersCuisine: CubanDifficulty: Moderate
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

4

hours 
Cooking time

8

minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of ground ham (I like using Boar’s head simplicity Ham) *

  • ½  cup of ground jamón serrano

  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced (it’s about a cup) 

  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter 

  • ½  cup of all purpose flour 

  • 1 tablespoon vino seco 

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of whole milk 

  • ⅛  teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg 

  • 1.5 cups of fine cracker meal (galleta molida) 

  • ½  cup of panko bread crumbs, finely ground in food processor 

  • ¼  cup of finely chopped parsley 

  • 2 bay leaves 

  • 1 egg, beaten mixed with a tablespoon of water

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • Oil for frying (I like canola/avocado oil for frying) 

Directions

  • You add the Boar’s head ham and jamon serrano and some parsley into a food processor and grind it down. Easy and quick. Set Aside.

  • In a large pot add butter and onions, nutmeg, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper and cook until tender but make sure they never brown or get too much color (about 8-10 minutes). 
  • Meanwhile warm the milk either in a microwave or on the stove top so it is at room temperature or slightly warm. This will help the bechamel be more smooth. 
     
  • On low heat, add the flour to the butter and onions mixture and cook out the raw taste of the flour. This means the flour has to cook for at least 6-8 minutes before adding milk.
  • When the flour is ready, raise the temperature to medium high and gradually whisk in the vino seco and milk. Try to incorporate everything evenly. Constantly whisk to be sure the milk doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom. In the next 3-5 minutes the bechamel should be very thick. Add the remaining salt and more black pepper. 
  • Stir in the hams and parsley until well combined. Cook together for two minutes. 
  • Spoon out mixture in a shallow platter and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least two hours in fridge. It needs to cool and this allows the mixture to stick together.
  • Have ready a medium shallow platter with a beaten egg and tablespoon of water. In another shallow platter add the pulsed bread crumbs and cracker meal. And lastly a platter to place the assembled breaded croquetas. 
  • Remove the mixture from the fridge and begin forming 2-inch logs with your hands.
    Dip a croqueta into the beaten eggs, then roll in the crumbs. Transfer the breaded croqueta to the other platter.  Do this until you have the amount you want to make.  You can make the entire ham mixture, or save some for later.  Your choice.
  • Heat 2-inches of oil in a frying pan to medium heat. Fry the croquetas about 2 minutes on one side then another two minutes on the other. If one side is not that golden try to leave it on that side a minute more. (we like using two spoons to turn them). 
  • Drain them on a rack or with paper towel. 
  • Eat immediately with a squeeze of lime! 
    Note – you can form croquetas and keep them in the fridge for two days before frying or in freezer for up to two months.

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