For the ambitious cook, the Holiday space between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve occupies a near-constant search for the best things to eat and to serve. There’s the classic turkey, the rib roast, candies and treats, various parties with family and friends, and maybe something big to finish the year off.
All that food makes for a busy cook schedule and also a lot of leftovers, so we thought we’d ease your winter-cook schedule with a delicious recipe for turkey croquettes. They’re made with leftover turkey, thus cleaning that up, and they’re a great make-ahead food and people will be impressed and delighted when these show up on your tray!
What are croquettes?
Croquettes are breaded, fried morsels of food, usually a mix of meats and starches. The name comes from French croquer, meaning “to crunch,” and can loosely be interpreted as meaning “little crunchies.”
There are many ways of making them, but the general process is to mix a pre-cooked main ingredient (in this case, turkey) with a starchy binder, bread the whole and fry it until crispy. Some recipes use mashed potatoes as the binder, sometimes with egg, sometimes without. This recipe calls for a thick sauce (stock thickened with roux) further flavored with onion and celery.
The breading and frying give croquettes a golden brown and crunchy exterior that makes them an attractive addition to a Holiday buffet. As an added bonus, they can be mixed, formed, and fried in advance, and then frozen. You can do the work in advance and pop a whole tray of them into the oven a half-hour before your party. Your guests will be wowed and wonder how you pulled it off.
Croquette thermal challenges
If you are making this dish with leftover turkey or chicken (as opposed to chicken you cooked for this purpose, something you may consider once you taste it!), make sure that it was handled properly before being cooled—meaning that it didn’t sit out on the table for hours and hours after everyone finished eating.
This recipe involves a cycle of heating and cooling. Chopped leftover turkey is added to a hot, thick sauce (in essence, a very thick gravy) and then cooled until chilled through. Once the turkey is added to the sauce, measure the temperature of the mixture to make sure it reaches 165°F (74°C), the safe temp for reheated leftovers. Cook it longer over low heat if necessary to reach the required temp.
The cooling thickens the mixture, making it moldable. So as to not overstrain your fridge or heat up sensitive items in the fridge, let the mixture cool on the counter until it is not piping hot anymore, then put it in the refrigerator. When checking to see if it is properly chilled—to below 40°F (4°C)—use a Thermapen®® Mk4 to check the temperature inside. Feeling the surface with your hand will not give you an accurate idea of the temperature!
Once the croquettes have been breaded, they must be fried. Because the ingredients are fully cooked inside, we don’t need to cook them any more than they are, we just need to warm them and make them crispy. As with all deep-frying, we want oil that is not too hot to burn our food and not too cool to let it get oil-logged and soggy. That means maintaining a perfect temperature range, and that means setting up your ChefAlarm® with a high-temp alarm of 375°F (191°C) and a low-temp alarm of 325°F (163°C). This range will keep you in perfect frying range.
Turkey (or Chicken!) Croquettes Recipe
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 stalk celery
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 C turkey or chicken stock
- 2 C cooked turkey, skinless, chopped (you can substitute chicken if you like)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp paprika
For the breading
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 C breadcrumbs
- 3/4 C all-purpose flour
- Oil, for frying
- Roughly chop the onion and celery, then chop them very finely in a food processor. Set aside. Chop the turkey meat very finely in the food processor.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When foamy, add the celery/onion mixture and cook until softened and translucent.
- Add the 3 Tbsp of flour and stir to combine. Cook for about a minute.
- Whisk in the stock and cook until the mixture becomes quite thick.
- Stir in the turkey, lemon juice, paprika, and salt. Combine well, then check the temperature. If lower than 165°F (74°C), continue cooking.
- Pour the mixture into a baking dish and allow it to cool somewhat on the countertop. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and place in the refrigerator until chilled and firm.
- Prepare your breading station with the beaten eggs in a bowl and the flour and breadcrumbs in shallow bowls.
- Shape the croquettes and bread them one at a time. Drop about a quarter-cup of the chilled mixture into the flour, coat it, and shape it into any shape you like. Balls or cylinders are easy, but the classic presentation is a three-sided pyramid.
- Carefully dip the floured croquette in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs, coating evenly. Set aside. You should end up with 8-10 of them.
- Once the croquettes have been formed and breaded, preheat about 2-inches of oil in a large, heavy pot. Use the ChefAlarm and the included pot-clip and probe to temp the oil. Set the high-temp alarm for 375°F (191°C) and a low-temp alarm for 325°F (163°C).
- Once the oil comes to temp, start frying the croquettes in batches of 3-4. Fry them until they are golden brown and delicious looking. Remember, the insides were already fully cooked.
- Drain the croquettes on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet and continue cooking the rest.
- Once they are all cooked, serve hot with leftover cranberry sauce.
- Note: if you are making these for later, freeze them once they are all cooked. Reheat them in a 325°F (163°C) until warmed through.
With all the stress of Holiday entertaining, it’s great to have an easy way to impress a crowd with something homemade and delicious. These croquettes are better than a frozen dish from the store and will use up your leftovers, to boot. Practice good leftover thermal principles by checking the temps with your Thermapen® and use your ChefAlarm to get perfectly fired results, and you’ll quickly become a winter kitchen wizard.
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