Croquetas de Jamón Serrano (Serrano Ham Croquettes)

Serrano ham comes from Iberian pig. Prize hams are from Andalucía where, legend has it, a certain duke in the 15th century fattened his pigs by feeding them snakes because he thought gave the meat a special flavor!

5 tablespoons butter
½ cup all purpose flour
1 ¼ cup whole milk
2/3 cup finely chopped Serrano ham or prosciutto, (about 4 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying

Bring the milk to a simmer, but do not boil. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When melted add the flour and cook 2 to 3 minutes while whisking frequently. When the butter turns light brown, gradually add the warm milk while whisking and continue to cook another 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture should be smooth. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the ham and nutmeg. Continue stirring for another 1 to 2; the mixture will pull away from the sides of the pan. Taste and add salt if desired. (The ham is salty so you might not need it). Transfer the mixture to a parchment lined sheet pan and spread it out in an even layer. Let the mixture cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to cook the croquettes, lightly beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Mix the breadcrumbs and ½ teaspoon salt in another dish. Scoop up tablespoons of the cooled filling and form them into 2-inch football shapes. Dip each ball into the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Pour enough vegetable oil into a large stockpot to reach a depth of 1 inch and heat over medium high heat. Working in batches, fry the croquettes in the oil, turning them on all sides, until golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Makes 16 croquettes

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