John D Lee is a chef and restauranteur living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He's always loved to cook.
You are lucky indeed if you find yourself with leftover chicken after your next roast chicken dinner, because with that, you are well on your way to one of Spain’s tastiest appetizers: chicken croquetas (chicken croquettes).
Croquettes are generally made either from a base of mashed potato or from a thick béchamel sauce that’s allowed to harden in the fridge. Spanish ones normally take the béchamel sauce road, which is the tastier path, in my opinion.
To make Spanish croquetas, you start with some leftover meat, make up a thick béchamel sauce, mix in the chicken, allow it to cool and harden in the fridge, make little balls of it, coat these balls in flour, egg, and bread crumbs, and then finally fry them crisp and golden brown—easy!
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Here the full recipe.
- 2 cups of leftover chicken meat, preferably from a roast chicken
- 2 cups of milk
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- A little nutmeg (a scant pinch—to taste)
- A little olive oil for sautéing (actually, you could use vegetable oil, but olive oil is so much more Spanish!)
- A little flour on a plate for dredging
- A beaten egg in a bowl
- A couple of cups of breadcrumbs, on a plate
- A neutral vegetable oil for frying (You’ll need enough to get at least a couple of inches of hot oil in your oil frying pot or deep fryer.)
- Shred or chop the leftover chicken into small pieces.
- In a pot or in a microwave, heat the milk just to the boiling point, and reserve.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, start to make your béchamel sauce—heat to medium and melt the butter. Once melted, add in the flour and let it all cook and bubble for a couple of minutes, as you stir it around constantly to incorporate and to keep it moving.
- Add a little of the hot milk and stir it vigorously in the butter and flour, until well blended, and then add in the remaining milk, a little at a time, keeping it thick as you go. Stir constantly as you add in the milk to prevent lumps from forming. Once you’ve added all the milk, let it simmer slowly for about ten minutes on the stovetop and then turn off the heat and reserve.
- Heat the olive oil over medium in a frying pan, and when hot, add in the onion and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned—about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic at this point and let it cook for a further minute or so, stirring. Turn off the heat.
- Add the chicken and the onion/garlic mixture to the béchamel sauce. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
- Now you have to cool this down in the fridge to harden for shaping and frying. (If you are in a hurry, pour the mixture into a thin layer in a large casserole or baking tray for faster cooling.)
- Once the mixture has hardened completely, use a spoon to form and shape each croqueta (about 2 tablespoons per croqueta is about right.) Roll each one in the flour, then dip in the beaten egg, turning to make sure it gets completely coated with egg, and then finely roll this egg-coated croqueta in the breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with the remaining croquetas. (You’ll get about 20.)
- Heat the oil for frying to 350°F. You can do this either in a deep fryer or on the stovetop in a heavy, high-sided pot that won’t likely tip over—filled with at least 2 inches of oil.
- Cook the croquetas in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the oil and drop the temperature down. Fry each croqueta for roughly 4 or 5 minuts, or until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve with a marinara-like sauce—being wary of the molten-lava-like filling as you bite into each one!