Enjoy Cuban croquetas de jamon whenever you need a Cuban street food fix! This easy Cuban food recipe is freezer friendly, a great way to use leftovers, and a hit at parties!
**Fair warning… there’s a good bit of personal chat at the beginning of this post. Scroll about halfway down the page to skip it and get to the croquetas de jamon bit.**
We went to visit my baby sister in Lynchburg this weekend. Her husband is the associate pastor at a local church, so we went to their congregation this Sunday, and the messages left me thinking. My brother-in-law led the Sunday School class and the topic for the week was anger, how God views anger, and how we as Christians should not let ourselves fall into un-productive anger. It’s okay to be angry about certain things, it’s a human emotion, but it should inspire us to positive action and then it’s over. If we let anger into our hearts and into our lives we become angry people and our anger removes our focus from living the life God has planned for us.
He went on to talk about modern implications and how we deal with anger with the tools available to us now – i.e. social media. Those vague Facebook posts? Not a productive way of dealing with anger or hurt. It’s best to speak to the person directly to try and resolve the issue. And this struck home for me because, while I don’t put up vague posts, I did once after someone un-friended me and I was a bit surprised, a little hurt, and yes, angry, that a situation had gotten to that point.
I should have done what is more like me, what I knew was right, and contacted her directly. Instead I let my anger get the best of me and I posted that vague status. After, it always did sort of bug me that the person I really wanted to talk to about it was the only person who never saw the post, but I never did anything about it. Which was silly, and Sunday reminded me of how silly that was. It was an incredibly immature way of doing things and that’s not the person I am or ever want to become. Direct communication is best, and if you’re curious, I did contact her with a late apology.
I’m sharing this here because I know we’ve all said things out of anger and when we do, we need to take responsibility for them. We also need to learn to identify the anger and not let it spread, the best remedy if you’re upset is to face the situation and communicate openly and respectfully. We should be spreading love, kindness, caring, beauty, not pettiness.
And now on to the recipe!
Croquetas are fantastic. They’re a great make-ahead party food (hellllloooo holiday parties), or addition to a meal. We typically enjoy them alongside a salad or soup, but will add them to an at-home tapas night spread as well (with an assortment of cheeses, crusty bread, and a sliced Tortilla Espanola).
When we’re visiting family in South Florida, we find these at just about any walk up coffee window because they’re a popular afternoon snack. Last time we were there, we drove almost 30 minutes from my in-laws’ house just to have croquetas at this restaurant because they liked them so much.
You don’t need to travel to Miami to enjoy these though… you probably have most of the ingredients already in your kitchen!
Because the recipe makes about three dozen, and there are only two people that will consume them in our home at the moment, I experimented with freezing the prepared croquetas and I’m happy to say the results were great! So don’t worry about making the recipe in advance and then storing the croquetas in your freezer.
Just freeze them on a baking sheet until solid, then transfer to a ziploc bag or other freezer container. Do not thaw before baking or frying.
Speaking of baking or frying, I also tested both. When you have croquetas de jamon at a restaurant or from a street stand, they are usually fried, but you can skip the oil and still get lovely crunchy-on-the-outside croquetas in the oven thanks to the double breading. Don’t skip that step! I actually think I preferred the baked, and it’s how I have been heating our freezer stash.
I don’t fry frequently and hate the thought of using that much oil when I can achieve a practically identical result in the oven. This is not like the difference between fried fries and oven fries! The crunch was nearly indistinguishable between the two in a side by side test. The primary difference is that the oven baked croquetas didn’t get the even browning.
If you don’t eat ham, you can substitute chicken, turkey, beef – your meat of choice.
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (see notes)
- 1 cup cold milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8-10 ounces ham, diced or minced fine (see notes)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- oil for deep frying (optional)
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then stir in the flour. Keep stirring for 2 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring to incorporate and make a nice smooth roux. It should feel pretty thick and almost paste-like.
- Add your spices and the ham (or meat of choice) and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings to taste.
- Let the ham mixture cool completely so it's easy to handle. It will thicken even more as it cools. If you have time, refrigerate until cold. Then it's very easy to handle! You can even make the filling a day or two in advance.
- In the meantime, set up your prep station. Eggs beaten in one bowl, breadcrumbs in another, and a place to put the shaped croquetas for cooking.
- Take a tablespoon of the ham mixture, form it into the desired shape (a small rod or a ball is traditional) and roll in the breadcrumbs. Then dip it in the egg mixture, re-roll in the breadcrumbs, and set aside. Repeat until you've used all the ham.
- If you plan to freeze any, do so here.
- If you plan to fry: Heat about 2 inches of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Fry the croquetas in batches for about 3-4 minutes each and set on a paper towel to drain. Lower the heat if the croquetas are browning too quickly.
- If you plan to bake: Preheat your oven to 420 F and bake the croquetas for 12-15 minutes, turning halfway through if desired.
- If for some reason the roux doesn't look thick, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. Sometimes water content in the butter requires a little more flour to set up. An extra minute or two of cooking should also do the trick.
- The exact amount of ham is up to you. That's what makes this a great recipe for using leftovers! I wouldn't go above a pound for this recipe though, because you need enough binder.
- I've recently started using my big food processor to mince the ham nice and fine. If you have one, it's a great way to save time.