Start Anew with Leftovers

Anybody have leftover ham from the Holidays? Let’s try something a little different then, besides ham and cheese sandwiches for a week. I think you will find these little golden fried gems perfect for appetizers on New Year’s Eve. My father, Chef Jack, always had me form his croquettes in one way and one way only. They were all to be bell-shaped. At every one of his restaurants, if I didn’t form his croquettes into the perfect standing bell to be served to his customers, he would simply grab them, crush them in his hands and throw it back into the bus bucket of croquette mix. Believe me, now that I don’t have to form them in such a classical manner, I think I will take a break.

Savory Ham and Fontina Croquettes
You can also substitute Serrano or other smoked hams for this crispy, ham and cheese finger food.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cubed Fontina cheese
1/4 pound cooked ham, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 eggs
2 cups unseasoned panko or dry bread crumbs
Oil, for frying
Apricot fruit spread
Dash hot pepper sauce

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour well and add milk. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. While stirring, add the cheese, ham and pepper. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and cool completely in refrigerator.
When cool, beat the eggs in a bowl; set aside. Place bread crumbs in another bowl; set aside. With your hands, take a little less than a 1/4-cup of ham mixture from the bowl and shape it into an oval, or whatever shape you desire. Dip each croquette in the bread crumbs and coat evenly. Roll in the beaten egg and then again in the bread crumbs. Continue with the remainder of ham mixture. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
When ready, heat 1 inch of oil to 350-degrees F in a heavy, large pot over medium-high heat, or use deep fat fryer according to manufacturers instructions. Cook croquettes in the oil, in batches of 4-5. until nicely browned, about 3 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix together apricot fruit spread and hot pepper sauce and heat to just warm, covered, in the microwave. Serve with your warm croquettes.

Makes 15 croquettes