Somewhere on the spectrum of deep-fried foods, wedged between stretchy mozzarella sticks and creamy arancini, is crocchette di latte, or “milk croquettes.” This master croquette recipe can easily accommodate whatever scraps of hard cheese, ham, and fresh herbs you have around, as long they are finely shredded or chopped (just stir them into the béchamel right before cooling.) Serve them with a side of lemon wedges and pickled vegetables for some acidic contrast to the mellow, milky flavor.
- Warm milk and nutmeg in the microwave for 2 minutes while you start the béchamel. Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan and then cook the flour in it for a minute or so, whisking until you have a thick blond-color roux. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly, and cook over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes until it resembles a very thick pudding. Turn off the heat, and whisk in the grated cheese and ham if using. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the béchamel into a shallow dish lined with parchment and cover. Refrigerate until completely cold, at least four hours.
- Slice the béchamel into about 40 squares. Pick up a piece with oiled hands (it should be firm enough for you to handle at this point), and lightly form into a squat oval shape. Repeat with the remaining pieces, and refrigerate while you prepare the other steps.
- Heat a couple inches of oil in a skillet or pot over medium heat, or to 375 degrees if you have a thermometer. Meanwhile, whisk half a cup of flour with a cup of water until it forms a smooth, light batter. Dip the shaped béchamel into the flour batter and then dredge in bread crumbs.
- Fry the croquettes in batches of 4 or 5 so as not to overcrowd the pan. They will take about 5 minutes to become a nice golden brown, turning once halfway through. Once cooked, drain them on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately, while still hot.
Tammie Teclemariam is a food and drinks writer and wine professional. Her work appears in Wine Enthusiast, Thrillist, and Eater. She lives in Brooklyn where she shares one fridge with 5 roommates.