The first time I heard the expression "all y'all" I thought to myself: This must be the name of a new toy like "Yo-Yo" or "Hula-Hoop" … it's an "All Y'All!" I wonder how they're marketing it?
If one has a single language with which to communicate, it is my belief that one must embrace it, nurture it, develop it, master it. The same can be said about cooking. I'm still in the "embrace" stage in the kitchen. Although I've been cooking for many years (some with better results than others), it's only been since my arrival in the Midwest that I've actually plunged myself into the culinary world. Like a mad scientist navigating my way through an alchemy of ingredients, I create dishes which, I hope, will be accepted and enjoyed by all y'all.
Today my adventures lead me to croquetas de jamon – ham croquettes. Although commonly served at parties, these appetizers are consumed at any time of day. They can be served at breakfast, prepared in a sandwich at lunch, as an appetizer at dinner or as a midnight snack. Croquettes are difficult to describe if you've never tasted one or even heard of them. Basically they are made of ground ham, formed into small cylindrical shapes, lightly breaded and fried. This is a time consuming recipe, and few modern-day Cubans bother making them at home since they are readily available in Cuban bakeries, cafeterias, restaurants, and even packaged frozen; yet, I cannot find them here. So, if I really want them, I must make them myself.
- 3 cups ham (ground or finely chopped in a food processor)
- 1 small onion (finely chopped in a food processor)
- 2 cloves garlic (pressed or chopped in a food processor)
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups milk, scalded
- salt and pepper to taste
For the breading:
- 1 large egg, beaten
- very fine bread crumbs or cracker meal
vegetable oil for frying
In a large skillet melt the butter and whisk in the flour, gradually add the milk whisking until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Add the remaining ingredients and continue cooking over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Place the mixture into a bowl and let it cool throughly. Refrigerate. It's best to work with this mixture when it's completely cold. Okay, now to form the croquetas. First, you will need to sprinkle a light layer of all purpose flour onto a work surface. Line up to 2 shallow bowls. In the first one beat an egg (you can add a little water to it), and in the second, pour the fine bread crumbs. Scoop up 1 tablespoon of the ham mixture and roll it on the floured surface to form a cylinder about 2 inches long and 3/4 inches in diameter. Dip it in the beaten egg and then in the bread crumbs. Repeat this process over and over renewing the flour/egg/crumbs when necessary. At this point you can freeze those that you will not consume right away.
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet bring 1 to 2 inches or oil to medium high heat. Fry 5 or 6 croquettes at a time until golden on all sides, turning with a slotted spoon. Transfer them to a paper-towel lined platter. Keep in a warm oven until you have fried all that you desire.