Tapena wines from Spain

Blue Cheese and Date Croquettes
Croquetas de Datiles y Roquefort

Tapa bar and wineIt's a pleasure to go around the La Boqueria market in Barcelona tasting and comparing the croquetas served at the various lunch counters. While the spinach, pine nut and raisin croquettes at Quim de la Boqueria are sublime, my prize goes to Bar Pinotxo for its crisp Roquefort and date fritters. Their combination of sweetness and pungency is fabulous. This is my adaptation of the dish.

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• 5 medium-size pitted dates
• Boiling water
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
• Olive oil
• 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for breading the croquettes
• 11/2 cups whole milk
• 4 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort or Cabrales, finely crumbled (about 1 cup)
• 2 or 3 gratings of nutmeg
• Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground
• white pepper
• 2 large eggs
• About 2 cups fine dry white bread crumbs, for breading the croquettes

1. Place the dates in a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover and let soak until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Thoroughly drain the dates, then mince them.

2. Melt the butter in 5 teaspoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, until the mixture is completely smooth, about 1 minute. Add the blue cheese and the minced dates and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Reduce the heat to low and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it begins to pull away from the side of the skillet, 3 to 5 minutes. Grate in the nutmeg and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Scrape the croquette mixture into a well-oiled shallow bowl that is 6 to 7 inches in diameter and has straight sides. Let cool to room temperature, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the croquette mixture and chill until firm, at least 3 hours. (The croquette mixture can be prepared up to a day ahead.)

3. Place some flour in a shallow bowl; beat the eggs in a second shallow bowl and place the bread crumbs in a third shallow bowl. Arrange the bowls in that order for easy breading. Lightly flour your hands, then break off a scant tablespoon of the croquette mixture. Lightly roll it in the flour, shaking off the excess, then roll it gently between your hands to form an oval. (Alternatively, you can invert the croquette mixture onto a cutting board and using a floured knife cut the croquettes into 1-inch cubes.) Dip the croquette in the beaten egg, then dip it generously in the bread crumbs. Transfer the croquette to a small baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Croquettes rolled in bread crumbs will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for at least a day.

4. Set a small rack over a baking sheet and line it with a double thickness of paper towels. Pour olive oil to a depth of 1 inch in an 8-inch skillet and heat it over medium-high heat to 350F - when hot, a croquette placed in the oil will sizzle on contact. Fry the croquettes, 6 or 7 at a time, until deep golden on all sides, turning once and adjusting the heat so the oil doesn't burn. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried croquettes to the paper towels to drain. Once all the croquettes have been fried, serve them immediately. Makes about 3 dozen.

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Source: Recipes 2005 from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen. Featuring over 300 unique recipes, The New Spanish Table protrays the food and culture of Spain at its most vibrant. The perfect pairing for delicious Spanish wines! (Workman Publishing Co. Inc.)


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