I’ve recently decided I would really like to avoid ever being called a “great person” or a “nice person.” I’ve found that every time I hear those phrases, they are swiftly followed by an insult. You’ve heard it, right? “She’s a nice person, but…” It is the northern equivalent to the Southern “Bless her heart. [insert backhanded insult here].” So, in support of that effort, I won’t bother explaining how addicting these things are. I won’t be nice and warn you that you’ll never want to go back to the frozen variety. I won’t do it.
The average American will look at you sideways if you mention anything about “ham paste” or “ground ham.” It’s a concept that’s different – but very normal for Cuban food. And it’s been my experience that the average American will also love these croquettes. Been there, tested it. Trust me. This recipe is tried and true, authentic, and delicious. For a typical Cuban lunch, grab yourself some amazingly soft rolls (or Cuban bread, if you have access to it), and make a sandwich out of these croquettes. Some people like to add ketchup or some other condiment to the sandwich. Personally, I like mine with the core ingredients: croquetas and bread.
I used to think these were so hard to make, or time consuming, or something! There had to be some reason even the best hispanic chefs I know kept buying the frozen croquetas, which almost always carried an unpleasant hint of freezer-burn. But no – the majority of the time spent in this recipe is just waiting for the filling to cool. Waiting. That doesn’t even count. These could not be easier to make. They require little to no ingredients, and there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t go make them right now.
When you get done eating, let me know what you liked about them, what tweaks you made, how you made them your own. I’d love to know!
- 8 oz package of diced ham
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup 2% milk
- ¾ cup flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp flaked dried parsley
- ⅛ tsp ground cumin
- ⅛ tsp flaked oregano
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- ⅛ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp sherry cooking wine
- 3 eggs, beaten
- About 1.5 sleeves saltine crackers,finely ground in food processor or blender
- 2 cups oil, for frying
- Grind the ham in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, lightly saute the butter and onion over medium high heat, about 1 minute. Lower the heat to medium low.
- Add in the milk and, stirring constantly, cook about 1.5 - 2 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour and seasonings.
- Add the flour mixture, ground ham, and the sherry to the skillet and mix until the ingredients come together as a dough. Remove from heat.
- Let the "masa" come to room temperature. Then, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Once the filling has been refrigerated, take about 1.5 tbsp of dough at a time and form the croquettes into long cylinders with rounded ends (makes about 15-20 croquettes).
- One by one, dip the croquettes in the egg, and then cover with the ground cracker crumbs.
- Go back and repeat step 2 for each croquette (so that each croquette has been breaded twice).
- Let the croquettes come to room temperature before frying.
- Heat the oil in a small heavy saucepan to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fry the croquettes until golden brown. Fry in small batches, letting the oil come back to 375 degrees between batches.