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:


  1. Mmmmmmm. This looks very delicious! Ok... I'm craving something fried now. Diet start over again tomorrow;-)

  2. the spanish tortilla looks exquisite! my goodness....i can imagine the scent of onions crisping with potatoes ~ heaven!

    then u had the cute rolo looking fritters.....and then there was paella?!! all in one night?! decadent my decadent ~

    what a wonderful friend u are. totally looking forwrd to paella + other europe inspired posts....

  3. Hey PE - I need to ask you something? How do you get saliva stains off keyboards??? Man your photos look great!

  4. Wow! i'm impressed-croquettes!!

    neki desu

  5. Wow, I am inpressed with the croquettes!

  6. I wish I could find a way to "bake" and not fry those delicious fritters LA Chic, and therefore, make them diet-friendly!

    I just posted the paella for you Taste Memory, and I agree that the smells from the Spanish food was heaven!

    Don't worry KirkK, there saliva doesn't stain! (I learned that from looking at your blog!) So keep on, keep on!

    Thank you Neki Desu, if you are impressed, then I am very, very honored!

    They are quite easy to make Sophie, surprisingly!

  7. Wow I am so hungry right now! Those croquettes look amazing.

  8. I liked getting tortillas while in Barcelona. It was a regular breakfast item to order when I was there! Your post brought back memories!

  9. Thank you Danielle, they are definitely worth a try!

    Barcelona is a beautiful city Chef Ben, I hope we can find a bit of Barcelona in SF!

  10. PE that sounds like quite a bit of work with just the tortilla and croquettes which both look seriously stunning! You've been so prolific, I'm looking forward to getting caught up.

  11. Yes, I posted about the entire Spanish dinner and kept posting Foodhoe! And I am still catching up with your posts when I was "away" from the internet for that one year, so you have taught me a bit about being a prolific and excellent food blogger!

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  13. Hello.
    I just wanted to comment on the lack of cheese in Your recipe. Having lived in Barcelona since September 2013, I can tell You that all meat croquetas (chicken, ham, and beef) use either grated Manchego or a semi-creamy goat cheese. Seafood croquetas use pureed potatoes. Also, vegetable oil is very frowned upon here. The oils that are used are olive oil and coconut oil.

  14. All croquetas have cheese? That's absolute nonsense. Also, vegetable oil may not be traditional, but is a perfectly acceptable and economical alternative to olive oil. - from a chef


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