Spanish croquetas de gambas shrimp croqueta recipeRecipes

Spanish Croquetas

Croquetas are a staple in Spanish tapas bars and restaurants, and we ate countless numbers of them in Spain. The perfect Spanish croquetas are breaded and fried rolls with a crunchy exterior and soft creamy interior, usually filled with bits of meat like jamón (hame), salt cod, or chicken. At first bite, I was amazed by the croquetas in Spain, imagining the difficulty that must be involved in creating such a dichotomy of textures. But my husband is much braver than I am in the kitchen and was not intimidated. Once he got the recipe down, he became a croqueta master, filling them with all kinds of things: shrimp, salmon, mushrooms, and even bacon blue cheese. Sound good? All four recipes are included below.

 

shrimp croquettes croquetas de gambas recipe

Croquetas originated in France, where they are called croquettes after the word “croquer” which means “to crunch” in French. As is typical with such a ubiquitous dish, the creator of the first croquette is debatable, but most credit goes to Chef Auguste Escoffier who wrote down the recipe in 1898. His original version used a mashed potato filling. Croquettes eventually spread around the world as a way to use up leftovers. Mixed with cheap, abundant ingredients like potatoes, flour, and milk, those last pieces of ham or chicken could be stretched out and transformed into a delicious treat.

How to Make Spanish Croquetas

In my opinion, the best Spanish croquetas are made from béchamel, one of the classic French sauces. Béchamel is a white sauce made from a roux of flour cooked in butter and milk. For croquetas, a very thick béchamel sauce is made that can be shaped into balls or rolls when chilled.

While some croqueta recipes create the béchamel sauce first, we prefer to create the béchamel around the main ingredients to better incorporate the flavors. Therefore, regardless of our filling of choice, the first step is to cook the main ingredient. This could be as easy as sautéing some mushrooms and shallots, or as complicated as preparing the shrimp stock used in our Shrimp Croquetas recipe below. (See the recipe for those details.)

minced shrimp saute

The béchamel sauce begins by preparing a roux, which is essentially flour cooked in fat. Sprinkle flour over the ingredients and stir to coat everything evenly. Sauté over medium heat while stirring for a few minutes to cook away the raw flour taste and allow the flour to become slightly toasted.

sprinkle flour over shrimp for bechamel

Add about 1/2 cup of hot chicken broth and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Plan on staying next to the stove for while, because constant stirring is key to a smooth béchamel. Slowly add the remaining broth and continue to simmer until it thickens to a gravy-like consistency.

shrimp with broth for bechamel

Gradually stir in warm milk. Pay attention to the consistency. You may not need all of the milk, depending on the moisture level of the main ingredient. Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture becomes very thick. This could take another 8 to 10 minutes, so patience is required.

adding milk to create bechamel sauce

Creating this béchamel sauce is the most critical part of the recipe. Too wet and it is impossible to shape the croquetas; too dry and you will lose the creamy melt-in-your-mouth texture that is characteristic of a perfect croqueta. This video should give you an idea of the consistency you are looking for, where the dough begins to bind together and pull away from the pan.

Transfer the béchamel mixture to a heat proof bowl and let it cool. Cover with plastic wrap smoothed across the surface of the mixture to prevent a film from forming on top, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until it is very stiff. We have the best results chilling the mixture overnight.

Now for the fun part of shaping and breading the croquetas. Set up a work station on the counter with a shallow bowl of flour, a small bowl with beaten eggs, and another bowl of bread crumbs. Have a baking sheet lined with parchment paper ready to receive the finished croquetas.

About those bread crumbs—we initially used regular bread crumbs, but found them to be too heavy on their own. Next we tried panko crumbs, which were light and crispy but didn’t give good coverage. For the perfect crust, we settled on a 50:50 combination of regular bread crumbs and panko, with the panko crumbs thoroughly crushed to reduce the flake size.

9-breading-station

Keep the mixture chilling until you are ready to roll. It is important to work quickly and minimize handling the mixture to keep it from warming into a gooey mess. My husband and I form an assembly line and pass the croqueta down the line. With a little practice, you’ll figure out what works for you.

Ready? Remove the chilled mixture from the refrigerator. Working quickly, scoop out a tablespoon of mixture and gently roll into a ball or cylinder. It is best to keep the croquetas small. The perfect size can be eaten in two bites.

10-chilled-croqueta-batter

Roll the ball in the flour, dip it into the egg, and then roll it in the bread crumbs until evenly covered. Transfer the breaded croquetas to the baking sheet. They are now ready for the fryer, or can be frozen to fry later. Croquetas freeze very well and are great to keep on hand for entertaining.

11-breading-assembly

breaded croquetas ready to fry

If freezing, first freeze the croquetas in a single layer on the baking sheet until solid and then you can transfer them to freezer bags for storage. The croquetas should be thawed for a few hours in the refrigerator and brought to room temperature before frying. If they are too cold you will not get even cooking and could end up with a hot outer shell and a cold center. We experienced this a number of times in restaurants in Spain.

deep fryer with croquetas

 

Using the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular deep fryer, heat vegetable oil to 340-360°F. Cooking in small batches, carefully slide the croquetas into the oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels for a few minutes, then serve hot!

 

croquetas de gambas shrimp croquettes


Shrimp Croquetas (Croquetas de Gambas)

This recipe for Shrimp Croquetas is more complicated than the other croquetas, but don’t let that discourage you. Buying shrimp with the shells on, and then using the shrimp shells to make a shrimp stock intensifies the flavor of the bechamel sauce in a way that it worth the extra effort.

The shrimp shells are browned in butter and olive oil until they become golden and fragrant. Then, a rich shrimp stock is made by extracting the flavors from the shells with white wine and straining to remove the shells. The shrimp are cooked in this rich stock until they are almost, but not completely cooked through. They will have additional cooking in later steps.

Return the minced shrimp to the pan with the juices, sauteed shallot, and seasonings. The bechamel sauce created around this mixture will be deeply flavored with shrimp.

 Shrimp Croquetas

Ingredients

1 pound of shrimp, with shells
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
1 shallot, diced
1 1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock (warmed)
3/4 cup milk (warmed)

3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup panko (crushed)
vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

  1. Peel shrimp, reserving shells and shrimp separately.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp shells and sauté for 5 minutes until the shells are golden and fragrant.
  3. Add the white wine and cook for an additional 5 minutes to extract flavors from the shells.
  4. Strain shells through a sieve, pressing gently on the shells to extract all liquid into a bowl. Discard the shells.
  5. Return liquid to skillet over medium high heat.
  6. Add diced shallot to skillet and sauté over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes until soft.
  7. Reduce heat to low and add shrimp. Sauté until almost cooked through. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon or tongs, leaving the cooking juices in the pan.
  8. Let shrimp cool. Mince the shrimp into small pieces using a food processor with short pulses.
  9. Return chopped shrimp to the skillet over medium heat. Add salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste, and a dash of cayenne pepper, and stir.
  10. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons flour over shrimp mixture and stir to evenly coat shrimp. Cook while stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes to fully cook and lightly toast the flour.
  11. Add 1/2 cup of hot chicken stock, and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Slowly stir in the remaining chicken broth and cook, while stirring, for a few minutes until the mixture thickens.
  12. Gradually stir in the warm milk and cook, while constantly stirring, until the mixture becomes very thick. This could take an additional 8 to 10 minutes.
  13. Transfer the mixture to a heat resistant glass bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until firm, for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

To bread and fry the croquetas:

  1. Place approximately 1 1/4 cup of flour in a shallow bowl or baking pan.
  2. Beat 3 eggs in a small bowl.
  3. Place 1 1/2 cup of crushed panko and/or breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl or baking pan.
  4. Spoon out a tablespoon of cold croqueta batter and gently shape into a ball.
  5. Roll the croqueta in the flour until covered, dip it into the egg, and then roll it in the bread crumbs. Place each finished croqueta on a baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator or freeze until ready to fry.
  6. Using the instructions for your deep fryer, heat vegetable oil to 340-360 F. Cooking in small batches, carefully slide croquetas into the oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Transfer to a plate with paper towels to drain for a few minutes, then serve hot!

Mushroom Croquetas

We like these best with a mixture of mushrooms, including cremini and shitake mushrooms, if you can get them.

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups mushrooms, diced
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash of chipotle pepper
2 tablespoons truffle oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup chicken stock (warmed)
1 cup milk (warmed)

3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup panko (crushed)
vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 4 minutes
  2. Add minced shallot, thyme, salt, chipotle pepper and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook for an additional 4 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and have released juices.
  3. Stir in truffle oil and butter.
  4. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons flour over the mixture and stir to evenly coat the ingredients. Cook while stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes to fully cook and lightly toast the flour.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of hot chicken stock, and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Slowly stir in the remaining chicken broth and cook, while stirring, for a few minutes until the mixture thickens.
  6. Gradually stir in the warm milk and cook, while constantly stirring, until the mixture becomes very thick. This could take an additional 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. Transfer the mixture to a heat resistant glass bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until firm, for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Follow instructions above in Shrimp Croqueta recipe to bread and fry croquetas.


Blue Cheese Bacon Croquetas

You probably won’t find any croquetas like this in Spain, but when an American starts fooling around with a recipe, it’s bound to end up with bacon in it. These are intense, so we keep them small. Choose a creamy blue cheese that will melt well, like Stilton or Gorgonzola.

Ingredients

½ pound bacon – pan fried and cut into ¼ inch pieces (reserve 1 tablespoon of rendered fat)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/4 cups plus 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (warmed)
100 grams (3.5 ounces) blue cheese (Stilton or Gorgonzola)
1 cup milk (warmed)

3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup panko (crushed)
vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

  1. Fry bacon in a large non-stick skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon of rendered fat in the skillet.
  2. Add unsalted butter to skillet and melt over medium heat.
  3. Chop bacon into 1/4 inch pieces and return to skillet. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons flour over the bacon and stir to evenly coat the ingredients. Cook while stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes to fully cook and lightly toast the flour.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of hot chicken stock, and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Slowly stir in the remaining chicken broth and cook, while stirring, for a few minutes until the mixture thickens.
  6. Add the blue cheese and cook while stirring until melted and fully incorporated.
  7. Gradually stir in the warm milk and cook, while constantly stirring, until the mixture becomes very thick. This could take an additional 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. Transfer mixture to a heat resistant glass bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until firm, for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Follow instructions above in Shrimp Croqueta recipe to bread and fry croquetas.


Smoked Salmon Croquetas

We sometimes have an excess of smoked salmon that we smoke ourselves and this is a great way to transform it into an appetizer that we can stock up on in the freezer. For these croquetas, use hot-smoked salmon, which is salmon that is smoked with heat, giving it a cooked texture (as opposed to cold-smoked salmon). The smoked salmon lends nice flavor, but this recipe also works well with plain leftover cooked salmon.

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ pound of Smoked Salmon, broken into flakes
1 shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon and a squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups plus 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (warmed)
1 cup milk (warmed)

3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup panko (crushed)
vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the salmon, shallot, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook until the shallot is tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the chopped dill, lemon zest, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  3. Stir in the butter until melted.
  4. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons flour over salmon mixture and stir to evenly coat ingredients. Cook while stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes to fully cook the flour.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of hot chicken stock, and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Slowly stir in the remaining chicken broth and cook, while stirring, for a few minutes until the mixture thickens.
  6. Gradually stir in the warm milk and cook, while constantly stirring, until the mixture becomes very thick. This could take an additional 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. Transfer mixture to a heat resistant glass bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until firm, for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Follow instructions above in Shrimp Croqueta recipe to bread and fry croquetas.

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