Croquettes are popular as a way to extend leftover meat and fish and versions of croquettes can be found in just about every Eastern and Western cuisine. In the States the east coast crab cake is a popular type of croquette. Any leftover minced meat or fish can be combined with bread crumbs, thick béchamel sauce or leftover mashed potatoes, formed into balls, small log shapes or patties and fried to make a croquette.
This delicious version makes one of my all time favorite appetizers. When formed into larger balls or patties they’re also a great main course. These start with a very thick béchamel sauce. No need to spend the extra money for large shrimp for this recipe. Since the shrimp is chopped just use the highest quality (fresh or frozen) shrimp you can find for best results. Because these need to be well chilled (or frozen) before frying they can be made well ahead of time and fried just before serving making them handy for entertaining.
I like to serve these with a chipotle spiked garlic aioli or homemade tartar sauce for dipping.
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium very finely minced onion
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
½ cup very finely minced or ground smoked ham
3 cups chopped cooked, cooled and drained shrimp
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Salt & black pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
2 cups Japanese panko or regular breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
In a large pan, melt the butter, add the onions, and sauté until translucent.
Stir in 1/3 cup flour to make a roux — add more butter if necessary to make a smooth roux. Gradually whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce. Continue cooking until the sauce thickens. Your sauce needs to be very thick. Whisk in nutmeg, sherry, and parsley. Fold in the ham, shrimp and one cup bread crumbs. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
Let simmer for five minutes on low heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Spoon the mixture into a baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled — at least one hour. The mixture needs to be firm enough to form into rolls. If your mixture is too soft or sticky, add some additional bread crumbs.
Shape the ham mixture into balls the desired size. Smaller ones are perfect appetizers; larger ones work well as a main course.
Make an egg wash by beating the eggs with water in a small bowl.
Place the panko in a second bowl; add salt and pepper to taste.
Roll the logs in the egg wash and then in the seasoned bread crumbs.
Cover logs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two to three hours (or overnight). You may also freeze for later use, or use the freezer to quickly chill them.
Sauté the croquettes in hot oil — about 350º F, a few at a time, three to four minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Serve with homemade tartar sauce or garlic aioli.