Why ham croquettes, once a prized staple in every Southern department store tearoom, country club clubhouse, and smart home dining room, fell into disfavor years ago continues to baffle me. “It’s a disgrace,” says renowned Southern food writer Jean Anderson, “and I suspect it’s because the health police tried to frighten people away from anything fried. I loved ham and chicken croquettes as a child, and I love them now.” Well, I haven’t seen much evidence lately that Southerners are very frightened of fried foods. Like Jean, I love any style of croquettes, and I think it’s high time this sapid dish underwent a rebirth—in homes and restaurants. These ham croquettes were traditionally served with mustard or tomato sauce on the side. If you really want something exceptional, make them with well-aged country ham—minus the salt in the recipe. For perfect texture, the ham mixture really should be refrigerated overnight before being formed into patties.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat, add the scallions and flour, and whisk till soft and well blended, about 2 minutes. Whisking rapidly, add the milk till well blended, add the ham, stir well, and remove from the heat. Whisking rapidly, add the egg yolks, return to the heat, add the sage and salt and pepper, and whisk till well blended. Scrape the mixture into a dish, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
With your hands, divide the mixture into 6 balls and roll lightly in the flour. Pat the balls into smooth oval patties, dip briefly into the egg wash, dredge in the bread crumbs, and place on a plate till ready to fry.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat about 1 inch of oil over moderately high heat about 1 minute, fry the patties till golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side, and drain on paper towels. Serve piping hot.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.