Monday, February 02, 2009
Recreating Europe #2: Spanish Tapas
In continuation of my "Recreating Europe" series, I decided to make a non-elaborate Spanish-themed meal. Therefore, I invited an old college roommate of mine (who studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain) over for dinner two days ago. Not only did I want to see her, but I also wanted her honest critique of my attempt at making Spanish cuisine, including classic Spanish paella and palate gratifying tapas. Since I was going to be making labor-intensive paella, I wanted to keep my foray into making tapas relatively simple. Conveniently enough, my two favorite tapas include (1) the Spanish tortilla, made with Spanish onion, waxy potatoes, and eggs, and (2) croquettes made with creamy and decadent bechamel sauce. Thankfully, those two no-frills tapas are relatively easy to make in the kitchen.
Using a Spanish cookbook as my guide, I started with the Spanish tortilla. When we Americans think of the "tortilla," we think of the Mexican tortilla, a thin flatbread made of lard and flour, and not a potato and onion omelet, as a "tortilla" is known in Spain. I love making omelets (even the Taiwanese omelet), so I thought this undertaking would be quite easy. After following the recipe (but cutting the proportions in half), I found my resulting Spanish tortilla to be a little too greasy, with not enough potato. I think I accidentally halfed all of the ingredients, except for the oil, and my luggage scale did not work well to accurately measure 1/2 lb of potatoes.
Nevertheless, the flavor of the tortilla was exactly on point and I was excited to try making this dish again, as it only consisted of three ingredients (1) potatoes, (2) eggs, and (3) onions.
My second undertaking, the croquettes, however, were quite "killer-deluxe," if I might say so myself. The crackly, golden-brown croquettes were crisp and hearty, and just like excellent fritters, they had deliciously creamy insides. Here is an adapted recipe, so that you can try these chicken croquettes at home.
Chicken Croquettes, Spanish Tapas-Style
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 chicken breast, deboned and cubed in ~1/3 inch squares, with fat and skin discarded
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp of butter
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of milk
1 whole chicken egg, beaten
2 slices of frozen wheat bread, processed in the food processor to make fine bread crumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
hot oil, for deep-frying
First, heat the olive oil on high heat in a non-stick pan, and fry the garlic and the chicken breast until just cooked through and fragrant. Next, in another small pot, melt the butter on medium heat, and using a whisk, quickly stir in the flour and the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Add the salt and pepper to this "bechamel" sauce and cook until smooth and thick. Add the cooked chicken to the bechamel sauce, and combine thoroughly. Next, process the chicken and bechamel sauce in a food processor, until the mixture looks like tuna or chicken salad. Put the mixture into the freezer, to let it cool, so that it is easier to work with.
Roll the cooled (but sticky) chicken salad mixture into small cigars (a little shorter than the length of a breakfast sausage link, with the same thickness as a breakfast sausage link), dip the cigars into the egg, and then coat them with the breadcrumbs.
Heat vegetable oil in a small pot until a bamboo chopstick (or really thick skewer) bubbles (with carbonated soda pop-sized bubbles) when dipped in the oil. Fry the croquettes in batches, until golden brown.
Serve with lemon wedges, chopped Italian parsley, flowing sangria, and enjoy while hot! Oh, and what did my Spanish loving friend say about the meal? Stay tuned, and I will tell you when I post about the paella!
If you liked this post, check out my other post in the Recreating Europe series, and my other omelet posts: