Monday, May 19, 2008

Taste & Create X: Ham Croquettes (Croquettas De Jamon)

First of all, I'd like to acknowledge the efforts of Nicole King, the author/organizer, Taste and Create, an event where two foodie bloggers are partnered and then they get to do whatever recipe they like from each other's archives. I can just imagine the many hours she dedicates inorder to make sure that this event happens every month. Kudos to you Nicole - for your creativity and for your patience!

With that said, I am both thrilled and a bit apprehensive when Nicole advised that I will be her partner for this months' Taste & Create. Here I am, a novice at both cooking and blogging, paired up with an obviously seasoned cook and blogger. Just check out Nicole's blog (here), and you will know what I mean. But, learning from others and taking on a challenge is the essence of this event, right? So, I'm going to learn as much as I can, and enjoy the ride as well while doing it.

When I learned that Nicole will be my partner, I knew immediately what I would do. I visited her blog a few days before the announcement, and was already planning on trying one of her recipes (among others), the croquettas de jamon, or cuban ham croquettes.

ham croquettes on a cuban roll

It is ironic that I would get the recipe for this dish from someone who is in Germany! I am based in Miami, Florida where Cuban abounds (next to Cuba, that is) so I should have been the one who had the recipe, right? But sometimes, distance also has something to do with everything. Because these croquettes are readily available here in Miami, I never had the motivation to make them at home. Ok, ok.. excuses, excuses....

Seriously, like Nicole, I had honestly thought that this would be complicated to make. Almost every Cuban I know has a grandmother who "makes super good croquettas". So, I had naturally assumed that this dish is not only complicated, but would also be very time consuming..... WRONG! As a mattrer fact, it is exactly the opposite. And I have Nicole to thank for proving that it is not. Just read the recipe, or better yet, try it and you'll find out.

The croquettes that are commercially sold, I know, have lard and all kinds of preservatives in them which make them not so good for our health (and figure). With this recipe, I probably would never buy ham croquettes from the bakery ever again. This is so much better! Because I know the quality of ingredients that went into it, I can now truly enjoy eating them without feeling guilty afterwards. (Though next time, I will try baking them for an even healthier version).

If you want to make this, the recipe is here. When I was shopping for the ingredients, I was so delighted to find an already ground ham. Awesome. This has even saved me one more step in making this dish. Talk about living in America!

ham croquettes ready for frying

Anyway, since the ham is water cured and not baked (recipe calls for baked ham), I added a 1/2-teaspoon of cumin for a smokey taste in the background. And then, I also added about 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice for freshness, plus a dash of crushed red peppers for a little kick. These are about the only variations I did to the recipe, otherwise, everything is a-ok!

Now, the next step is to learn making another one of my Cuban favorite, those guava and cheese pastelitos... anyone have the recipe?

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