Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chicken Croquettas with Jalapeno and Mozzarella

Spanish Tapas are among my favorite dishes.  Spanish Tortilla, Pollo Al Ajillo & Gambas Al Ajillo top my list of tapas to order when at my favorite Spanish restaurants.  Chicken Croquettas are definitely another scrumptious Spanish appetizer worth considering.  Croquettas are soft creamy chicken morsels in a crunchy breaded exterior.  The combination creates a satisfying crunch to every bite with a meaty interior that melts in your mouth.  As a tapa they can also be satisfyingly filling when served with a light salad.  I personally like having Chicken Croquettas with Aioli dip and a side of Tabbouleh. 

The traditional Spanish Croquettas do not include jalapeno pepers or cheese filling.  On the other hand encountering a meat paste recipe usually entices me to try and add something into the mix.  This is where experimenting with a recipe is most intriguing to me.  Opportunities to blend flavors or even fuse other cultural flavors into the mix become very easy to do in a meat paste.  Adding the mexican favorite of jalapeno peppers and cheese into this Spanish dish was an easy choice and I'm sure there are Spanish restaurants in Central or South America that must have something similar on their menus.  I doubt this anything new. 

The question for myself is "What else can I do with the fairly flexible recipe of Croquettas?"  It's similarity to crab cakes gives me the idea of substituting the chicken with crab meat, shrimp meat or even fish meat.  Or I can experiment with spicing the chicken paste with green onions, peas and curry to give it a little bit of an Indian influence similar to Pakoras or Samosas.  The crab meat strikes me best, so don't be surprised if I post a Crab Croquettas recipe in the near future.

Cooking this dish will require a food processor or blender to create the chicken paste.  Traditionally the recipe calls for chicken meat first fully cooked with olive oil and garlic then blended into a meat paste and combined with a milky buttery roux before deep frying with a coat of bread crumbs.  I added jalapeno peppers and mozzerella to this recipe to give it a cheesier filling with a little bit of a kick.   Simply omit the jalapeno and cheese for a more traditional Spanish Chicken Croquetta.

Chicken Croquettas with Jalapeno and Mozzarella

Makes: 10-12  Croquettas
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time:  25 minutes


2 Tablespoons Butter
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 Cups Milk
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Chicken Breast
4 Garlic Cloves Diced
1 Jalapeno Pepper Diced
1/2 Cup Mozzerella Cheese Shreded
1 Large Egg
1 Cup Bread Crumbs
Vegetable Oil for Deep Fry

Step 1:  The Sauce -- Melt the butter in a sauce pan.  Over a low heat, add the flour until butter and flour are well combined.  Slowly add the milk pouring a little bit at a time and while stirring in the ingredients.   Continue stirring until it becomes a smooth  white thick milky sauce as shown below.  Set aside.

Step 2:  Preparing the Chicken -- Slice the chicken breast in to thin strips.   Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the garlic.  Saute until fragrant (10 seconds) then add in the chicken.  Brown all sides of the chicken and cook the meat all the way through (8-10 minutes).   Place all contents of the skillet in a food processor or blender.  Add the jalapeno peppers and mozzerella cheese to the food processor/blender.  Pulse the meat and ingredients together until it blends into a meat paste (20-40 seconds). Add the chicken paste to the sauce and stir together until well combined.

Chicken Meat Paste

Step 3:  Breading and Frying the Meat --  Heat vegetable oil  to medium high in a small sauce pan.  Oil should be about 3/4 inches deep.  Crack the egg into a bowl and beat until yolk and eggwhite are scrambled.  Place the bread crumbs on a plate.  Using your hands, roll the meat paste into 10-12 meatballs.  Dip one meatball into the egg, then tenderly roll the meat onto the bread crumbs until it is coated on all sides.  Form the breaded meatball into a small cylinder tube and carefully add it to the heated vegetable oil to fry until golden brown on all sides.   Carefully remove the croquetta from the oil and let cool on a plate lined with kitchen paper.   Repeat the process for each of the rolled meatballs.

Tip:  Best to use a spatula or slotted spoon to remove the finished croquetta from the hot oil as it will still be quite fragile.  As the croquetta cools on a plate the outer layer of bread crumbs will harden and create a firm shell that can be easily picked up with one's fingers.

Serve this dish with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the croquettas or try it with an Aioli Dip or even Tartar Sauce

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