Croquetas de cecina y puerro

Having a plate of croquetas and a cold glass of fino sherry put in front of me is pure, deep-fried happiness indeed. In terms of tapas they are pretty damn perfect,fried,starchy and assertively salty. Spanish croquetas are made from a stiff Béchamel,rather than mashed potato and they need to be eaten hot-so hot from the fryer that you burn your fingers on the crisp breadcrumb coating as you rush to bite into their gorgeous molten centre.My imagined fear of first mounting Etna palls into insignificance.They are surprisingly light despite the outrageously piggy filling that oozes from their shell.There  are innumerable variations on croquetas, and everyone has their particular favourite.
Old habits die hard, and I was more than happy to have come across an unusual croqueta recipe,but not too far removed from the classic ham standard.Creamy béchamel is the perfect foil for morsels of jamon iberico,but how about cecina and leek? I left you with a cliff hanger in my last blog post.What is he going to do with the cecina before it dries out? Well I was sent the answer on a plate, this recipe popped out of the ether and landed on my mouse mat.However,entering virgin territory I was left with issues which need to be addressed in future croqueta projects.The recipe I used told me to cook the bechamel until it came away from the sides of the pan and another recipe had informed me not to overcook the béchamel to avoid the consistency becoming stodgy.Who I should have believed I am not too sure,but I think the end product could have been a little firmer.I was also unsure whether to fry them on a low, medium or high temperature, or if indeed I should have employed the deep pan fryer as opposed to a frying pan on the stove top.I did not find a recipe that gave much guidance in this respect but perhaps with further research I will graduate from virgin to one initiated in the art of producing the perfect croqueta.I did follow advice about flouring your hands to roll the chilled croquetas mixture before breading.This is a cheffy tip recommended by José Pizarro, and makes things much easier.
Finally, although generally I favour neutral oils for frying, on this occasion throw caution to the fryer and use olive oil.It´s well worth the expenditure – the flavour is complementary, rather than distracting. A litre bottle should be fine, and you can filter it and use it again should the call of croquetas prove difficult to ignore: in fact these are ideal for parties, because they need to be made in advance, and then fried to order.God forbid they are far too good to share.
Croquetas de cecina y puerro (cecina and leek)
ingredients (for about 40 croquettes approx.):
you might want to halve the quantities here

1250 ml whole milk 
100g butter 
100g wheat flour plus extra to form the croquettes 
150g cecina
1 leek 
Black pepper 
Olive oil
Chop both the leek and Cecina as small as you can, reserving one slice of meat kept whole.Bring the milk to a simmer and drop in the reserved slice of Cecina. In a pan melt the butter. Add the leek and fry until soft but not coloured. Then add the Cecina and stir it in.Now add the flour and let it take on a bit of colour.
When the milk is coming to the boil, remove the slice of Cecina, and pour the milk slowly onto the flour mix stirring constantly to avoid any lumps.Add the seasonings to taste.
When the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, this is when the batter is ready for croquetas.
Pour it into a dish to cool. Once cool, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until the next day.
The next day mould the croquetas with a spoon to form the cylindrical shaped croquetas.
Pass them through (in this order)  flour, egg and breadcrumbs. 
Pour enough olive oil in a medium to large frying pan to cover 1/2 inch deep. Heat the olive oil for frying to about 355F degrees. Dip the croquetas in the beaten egg and coat with crumbs by rolling in bowl. Place the croquetas in the hot oil and fry quickly, turning several times, until golden. 
If you prefer, you can use a deep-fryer to fry the croquetas.Be sure not to over-cook them!I am not convinced about this.
Remove the croquetas with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve immediately.
If your croquetas will not be served immediately, place in a warm oven (200 degrees) for up to 30 minutes.


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