* this post was originally published on Jan. 16, 2008, my 3rd post ever on this blog! But, I think it needs and deserves some serious love! And, since I’m a bit short on time to cook, photograph and write this week, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favorite Cuban staples! Bite!
With Waffle House on every corner, hundreds of different fried chicken joints and fish-frys on the weekends, the south is the home of bad unconscious eating–so I’ve heard.
I have vices. Mine lend themselves to creating a deficit in my bank account. Imagine that, dad. Really, it’s the desire to have things I know are no good for me…espresso at 10 pm or spending my rent money on a Balenciaga bag, or a nutritionists’ all time enemy: Fried Food every chance I get! Heart and artery cloggin’, not to mention where fat deposits itself in us women, I’ll take it. Chick-fil-A waffle fries are yum. Every now and then we have to indulge in our vices, right!? We stay sane that way. I’d have every designer bag, shoe, hat and dog carrier, otherwise.
The fried thing down here is MEAN! And though the best foods are typically injected with all kinds of ingredients you can’t even pronounce or soaked in who knows how old oils, we keep going back for more.
A lot of indigenous Cuban foods are not fried, at least not the main dishes. It’s always those itty bitty appetizers that are sooo good; you might not even make it to your main course. I talk about the croqueta or croquette. Of all our small foods, this is my favorite. It embodies flavors of spices and textures for days.
If I’m not mistaken, a pork or ham croquette is probably the most popular in Latin Cuban cuisine, though we also have seafood, plantain and rice, among others. I prefer chicken. All hail to the chicken! These nibblets will cause you to research different cooking oils, just to keep enough handy for when the urge kicks in. Beware though. There will be some fighting of sorts when the final batch is ready. In my parents house, croquetas are rationed. This is a notion I believed still existed only in poor Cuba.
But alas, fingers come out, eyes roll and lips turn up when it’s time to count your share. You’ll need a black magic marker, aluminum foil, a Ziplock freezer bag and a sense of patience if you’re the partitioner.
Living in Atlanta is beneficial in this case: I leave home with 25 more than the rest! YES!!!
IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe is for laborers of love. Not just food lovers. You must love to cook! You must have patience and not much else to do at the time. It’s a process. But the reward is abundant. You’ll feel good for demonstrating chef qualities and grandmother patience. You’ll embrace the 4 chiquitos tugging at you. With a soft and utterly delicious center, the crispy (and not oily!) shell, this is the best thing we could have invented. “Viva Cuba!”
You start out my boiling skinless chicken breasts until fully cooked. A masa or dough from the chicken is next. Because the chicken is fully cooked at that point, I often time pinch a bite off and eat it before I even get to the rest. Then you make the dough (no kneading!!), roll it into it’s link size shape, dip in egg yolk, roll in bread crumbs and finally deep fry. I told you it’s a process, but so worth it. Te prometo. Here I am frying some at my friend Simone’s house. I made the mistake of only bringing 12 for 6 of us. Her husband Reggie was not happy when she took his share. Add insult to injury: she let him take a bite of hers his. Ha ha ha. You go guuurl! Sorry Reg.
Here’s my mother’s version of chicken croquettes, by far the best I’ve ever had!
Don’t they look good!?!?!
Is there any flavor croqueta you’d like me to try!!?? I’m open for ideas. I’m almost inclined to try a seafood one next, though the plantain ones sound way better!! Hmmm. Let me know and I’ll go for it!!
* thanks to my friend and backup photographer Dave Patterson for taking all of these images, way back in 2008!
This recipe is certified “Yummly!”
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
Follow the sexy & delicious fun on
- 5 medium chicken breasts (skinless)
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups bread crumbs (you can make your own or buy a container of plain crumbs)
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
- 1 medium Spanish onion (minced)
- 6 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 tbsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 3 cups white flour (sifting is optional)
- 1 stick of butter
- 3 tbsp dry white cooking wine
- Enough vegetable or olive oil for deep fry
Bring chicken to boil in salted water and cook until tender. Drain and let cool. Once cooled, pull chicken into really thin “strings” and set aside. In a medium sauce pan, lightly sauteé butter, parsley, onion, garlic on medium heat; add all of evaporated milk and mix well. Before milk begins to boil, add nutmeg and black pepper, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Maintaining the mixture without a boil, stir in flour and begin folding mixture. Slowly add chicken and continue to stir constantly at medium speed, making sure the dough does not stick to sides of pan. Reduce heat to low. Right before you remove dough from pan, mix in cooking wine. Place dough on large platter and let cool for two hours, before refrigerating . You should have a beautiful, large and round ball of chicken dough! (sorry for not having a picture)…
Whisk eggs in bowl and set aside. Place bread crumbs in separate bowl and set aside. Pinch about 1-2 tbsps of dough and shape into small sausage size (see picture above for reference). Using a spoon, roll twice in egg yolk mix, covering entire croquette. Roll and fully cover with bread crumbs. As you shape and cover the croquettes, line up on wax paper. After you have finished all of them, set aside for about 15 minutes. In large frying pan or small deep fryer if you have one, cook croquettes in 375 degree heat, until golden brown.
Serve hot! Yields 60 fabulous croquettes. Ration carefully and enjoy!
* you can store extra ones in the freezer for up to 4 weeks!!