Putting My MBA to Good Use – Croquetas de Salmón

tapas - croquetas de salmon
Going to business school a few years ago was a much needed, very welcome, voluntary break from the “real” working world (unlike this externally induced little break I am on now). However refreshing it was though, I don’t remember much of my two years of accounting, finance, strategy & operations, and marketing because, well, truth be told, the business school curriculum didn’t teach me anything that I didn’t already know. Five years of consulting prior to school was like business boot camp.

When clients asked me if I could integrate a sexy new pharmaceuticals order processing system with a legacy accounting system, I snuck back to my expense-account hotel and taught myself the debits-on-the-left, credits-on-the-right of accounting on the ancient, noisy treadmill of the hotel’s stinky little “workout room” on the mezzanine level. I learned more strategy and operations in three days locked up in a conference room with WSJ-quoting executives, drawing flowcharts in full technicolor with dry-erase markers on walls that were floor to ceiling whiteboards than I did in 10 weeks of Strategy with an insane Harvard MBA professor. I was a marketing case study long before I ever had to read a marketing case study and filter out the 4Ps for some imaginary toy company. Finance – well, now, that’s a different story. Dad taught me the Rule of 72 at the dinner table when I was five. :)

Yes, I’m saying that I’m a business genius! Let’s just ignore, for the moment, the fact that I’m not working, even though I mention it every chance I get, okay?

The bottom line, (which is business for “net income”) is that business school was a wee bit of a net loss, and if you’re using excel, “loss” conditionally formats to red, in parentheses.

Except for one thing. Pinxo.

In my penultimate (I didn’t learn that word in b-school) term of my business school education, I took a business plan writing class. While all the other groups monopolized campus conference rooms to formulate grand strategic schemes for nanotechnological and wireless mobile world domination, I and my merry band of rogue classmates held strategic “board” meetings at LA’s local tapas bars. We did comparative pricing studies between beer, wine, with a few cocktails thrown in as controls. We did comprehensive “field research” to prove to our investors that yes, southern California is indeed, preparado a gozar the tapas revolution. We made our (elevator) pitcher of sangria and by the time we got to the top floor, LA was starving for our new tapas bar and lounge, Pinxo.

Pinxo (which is pronounced “peen-sho”) is a term that is used in the southern Spain region of Andalucía to refer to what we commonly call tapas. In Andalucia, tapas are usually small, thin sandwiches that accompany a drink, and the pinxo is the toothpick that holds the bread and meat together. We picked “Pinxo” as our working name because we thought it was significant and unique. Besides, “Cobras & Matadors” was already taken. ;)

I had eaten my fair share of paella, and few simple tapas-as-appetizers before, but never the breadth and depth of authentic Spanish tapas that I did in that sangria-induced hazy quarter of business school – patatas bravas, croquetas de jamón serrano, gambas al ajillo, and always with churros y chocolate as a sweet, semi-sobering ending. My love for Spanish cuisine that had been slowly simmering in the subconscious of my stomach had turned into rolling boil of a love affair. When our little low-tech restaurant idea made it to the final round of a high-tech heavy business plan competition, there was no turning back.

Pinxo earned “A” in class, but didn’t win the business plan competition. We lost the $10,000 to some wireless mobile dating dorks, but with a recipe for croquetas, who’s the real winner here, huh?!

Yeah, I thought so.

Croquetas that appear on tapas menus are typically made from jamón Serrano (Serrano ham), pollo, or bacalao, a dried, salted cod. I love love love love bacalao, but who the hell has the time to soak a whole side of salt-cured fish in milk for three days, changing the milk avery few hours?! I used salmon, which I doubt is ever used in Spain to make croquetas, but it’s close enough. Salmon is fish just like bacalao, and heck, salmón rhymes with jamón.

tapas - croquetas de salmon
say “salmon balls” without laughing

Croquetas de Salmón with Lemon Caper Aioli

In a medium saucepan, melt 2 T butter and saute 1 finely chopped onion and 1 finely minced garlic clove until onions are translucent.

Add 12-16 oz. smoked salmon, ¼ c. finely chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and stir about 5 minutes until salmon breaks up and is heated through.

Sprinkle ¼ c. fine plain breadcrumbs and 1 c. heavy cream over salmon, stir, and cook until cream cooks down and mixture is thickened.

Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, overnight is okay.

When the salmon is cool, roll about 1½-2 T. of the mixture into 1″ balls. “Salmon balls” makes me giggle like a middle schooler.

Dredge each salmon ball in all purpose flour, shake off excess, dip in beaten egg (it will take about 2 large eggs for the croquetas), then in plain breadcrumbs. I used panko, the light Japanese style beadcrumb sometimes used for tempura.

Deep fry croquetas in hot oil until they are light golden brown. (I actually had about 1″ oil in a deep frying pan and fried one side at a time). When you remove them from the oil to drain, they will continue to cook an darken to a toasty brown.

Serve with an aioli that has been mixed with chopped capers and extra lemon juice.

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