Cuban Ham Croquettes

These croquettes (croquetas) were a staple in my Cuban household growing up. You can substitute cooked chicken or fish for the ham if you want. And the best part is, everything can be done ahead of time and kept chilled - then just fry them up when it's time to eat!

You'll need:

  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 1/4 white onion (about 1/3 c), finely diced
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 16 oz chopped (or leftover) ham
  • 3 c plain bread crumbs, divided
  • 1 Tbs dry white wine (vino seco)
  • 1/2 tsp adobo seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 1/4 c flour
  • Oil, for frying

Dice or process the onion so it's very finely chopped. Remove the onion to a small bowl and wipe out the processor. Add the ham to a food processor and grind until there are no chunks left - it should be close to a paste.

Add the butter and diced onion to a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir as the butter melts, gently cooking the onion, until the butter is completely melted.

Pour in the milk and flour and continue cooking over medium-low until thick, while stirring constantly with a whisk. When it's thickened, remove from heat and stir in the ground ham and 1 c bread crumbs. Stir in the wine, adobo, salt, and pepper. Place the filling in a storage container and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Line a medium baking sheet with wax paper. Working with a heaping tablespoon of filling at a time, form the dough into small logs - I used a 1 1/2 Tbs cookie scoop and ended up with exactly 30 croquettes.

In a small bowl, quickly whisk the eggs with the 2 Tbs water until frothy. In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 c bread crumbs, 1/4 c flour, and  about 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.

Pick up a ham filling log and roll it between your palms to make it a smooth cigar shape (flattening the ends as needed so it's the same width the whole way). Coat it in the egg mixture, then bread crumbs. Then do a second coat of eggs, then bread crumbs again. Return the log to the baking sheet, and continue the process for the remaining croquettes.

Put the whole baking sheet into the refrigerator to chill, another 2 hours or so. (If you're short on time, you can put the tray in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes.)

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, until a tiny bit of breading dropped in immediately begins to bubble - then lower the temperature to medium-low so it doesn't brown too fast when you fry the croquettes. Drop in 5 to 6 croquettes - so they aren't crowded - and fry, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat with the remaining croquettes.

Serve with ketchup.