MADRID – It will come as no surprise to anyone that International Croquette Day is widely celebrated in Spain on January 16. Although the origin of the croquette is French, croquettes of all types, shapes and flavours are also inextricably linked to Spanish cuisine.
This day shows how much the Spaniards love their croquettes. Of course, there is also the potato croquette in the UK, veal croquette in the Netherlands or shrimp croquette in Belgium, but the Spanish offering is as diverse as the country is large. Every region has its variant. Anyone who has ever eaten in Spain knows that croquettes are on almost every menu. They are also very popular as tapas or as a small snack with a beer.
In this article, you can read more about the different types of these filled and fried delicacies and how you can experience your culinary croquette adventure at home.
The origin of the croquette
Only at the end of the 19th century did the croquette reach the Iberian Peninsula. This delicacy originated in France. There, an aristocrat named Louis de Bechamel was in charge of King Louis XIV’s kitchen. This ‘father’ of croquettes worked as chief inspector of the household of the Duke of Orleans.
It is said that he or one of his assistants made the bechamel. This sauce was actually the result of perfecting an older cream-based sauce by François Pierre de la Varenne, chef of the Marquis of Uxelles. He also dedicated the sauce to this man, as chefs often did for the nobility of the time.
It lasted until 1817 when chef Antoine Cámere served him some croquettes a la royale during a dinner for the Archduke of Russia. It looks like this chef came up with the brilliant idea of covering the béchamel with a crispy layer.
The most popular croquettes in Spain
The ham croquette
According to a ranking by croquetasricas.com, ham croquettes filled with Jamón Ibérico are the most popular among Spaniards. The Ibérico ham is a national delicacy, and it is almost unthinkable not to use it in a croquette. They should not be missing on a tapas plate and go perfectly with a cold, freshly poured beer.
Croquette with mushrooms
In second place are mushroom fillings. The ‘setas’ are available in many forms in Spain. In the form of mushrooms or porcini mushrooms, they give a particularly delicious taste to – additional advantage – vegetarian croquettes. They are sometimes made extra savoury with a touch of Parmesan cheese or dried meat. A glass of beer or a dry white wine completes the taste.
Croquettes with seafood or fish
How about croquettes with fish or seafood at your next party, dinner, or fancy brunch to which you invite your friends? Anyone who has not yet experienced how these delicacies with cod, shrimp, or small squid slide in together with a glass of wine or beer is missing out. They also taste great with a béchamel sauce or, if desired, with a typical Spanish ‘aioli’. With so many combination options, it is no wonder that ”croquetas de pescado o mariscos’ are in third place.
Lovers of savoury dishes and people who do not eat meat or fish will enjoy croquettes with cheese filling. As an individual tapa dipped in a spicy chili sauce, these go perfectly with a beer. They also go together with a portion of Manchego cheese.
Croquettes with filling of other meat
Anyone who thinks that croquettes can only be eaten as a small snack or side dish can try a meat filling. In Spain, chicken fillings in endless variations are widely known to brighten up fried rolls or balls. How about a croquette with stewed beef filling, a dollop of mayonnaise on top, and a mixed salad? Croquettes are also excellent for using minced meat or other meat leftovers. Serve them with crispy pieces of bread and aioli and the meal is complete.
Vegetarians also have a choice
There is no reason to worry for vegetarians. You can use virtually anything as a filling for croquettes. From the well-known spinach croquettes to croquettes filled with zucchini cream and green asparagus, or eggs and the aforementioned mushrooms. Broccoli and quinoa also go well.
Let Croquette Day be an inspiration for you to start your culinary adventure and enjoy the variety of flavors that croquettes have to offer!
Also read: Where to enjoy the best tapas in Spain