Gourmet Heaven for Leftovers
Are you ready for the big day tomorrow? But more importantly, do you know what you’re going to do with all those turkey leftovers? I actually look forward to the challenge of transforming yesterday’s feast into an exciting new meal. There are few leftovers that I haven’t attempted and succeeded at converting into delicious, crispy Croquettes. I grew up spoiled with exposure to a wide variety of multi-cultural foods, including my Spanish grandmother and Cuban mother’s Spanish-style Croquetas which we looked forward to after ever Thanksgiving holiday.
These are not your ordinary packed meat and potatoes, smothered in bread crumbs and deep-fried until crisp. In Spain, croquetas are a delicacy that can be enjoyed as an appetizer at a Tapas bar or as a full, gourmet meal. Only the best of ingredients go into the making of their smooth, savory, melt-in-your mouth fillings.
Thanks to my creative cooking and some help from my trusty food processor, we enjoy croquettes just amount anytime I cook a little bit too much of something.
Croquettes can be made from just about anything; you just need something creamy or starchy to bind the filling. Some countries exclusively make them from starchy potatoes and other vegetables or exclusively from meat. Other countries use potatoes instead of bechamel as the binding agent. Below I am sharing my mother’s amazing recipe for Chicken Croquetas, but you can substitute the ground chicken with ham, turkey, pork, fish, lamb or just about any other meat you can imagine. I have made croquettes out of leftover mashed potatoes, couscous and even risotto. In Italy, we call these Arancini and they are out of this world! In Arancini, the creamy starch in the risotto works as the binding agent.
Molded to Perfection
It’s important that your filling have the right consistency so that you can easily roll it into a ball or long cylinder. If your filling is too soft, it is much harder and messier to work with, but with some patience and heavily floured hands, it is possible to make something delicious out of a runny mess. Believe me, I have tried!
Once you have molded your filling into its desired shape, you will coat them with breadcrumbs. At this point you can freeze your croquettes between layers of wax paper and save for another time. I have several different flavors of croquettes waiting for us in the freezer for a busy day when I otherwise don’t have time to get a delicious, home-made meal on the table.
The Breading and Fry
If you are planning to fry croquettes immediately, you will need to dip them in egg wash (beaten egg with a tablespoon of water or milk) and again roll with bread crumbs. If your filling was exceptionally soft and difficult to work with, you might be best off going with a third coating of egg and bread crumbs.
After I have formed and breaded my croquettes, I let them rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so they don’t fall apart in the oil, but you can certainly leave them in there for several hours. The key to frying these is to get the oil very hot. You can test it by dropping a little bread crumb flake and if it sizzles, it’s ready to go.
Many people deep fry their croquettes. Not only do I not own a deep fryer, but I also don’t like waste in my kitchen. All the croquettes need is about 1/2 inch of oil, so I use a tiny saucepan and turn the croquettes until they are crispy, golden brown on the outside and warm, creamy and savory on the inside.
If you are making a large batch of these for a party, you can place them in a low temperature oven to keep them warm. Serve them with your favorite dipping sauce, like Alabama White Sauce.
Suggested Wine Pairings
These delicate Spanish-style chicken croquetas call for a rich Rioja white or red wine. A sparkling Spanish Cava would also be a great choice when serving these as an appetizer.
If you’re serving the croquettes with a strong sauce, you should consider pairing the wine with the sauce. With a lemony, tangy sauce, try a crisp, acidic white like Sauvignon Blanc. With a spicy, rich sauce, try an equally spicy wine with dark red fruit, like a Malbec or Zinfandel. With an acidic tomato or red pepper-based sauce, like Spanish Romesco, try a red with soft tannins and bright flavors like a Spanish Tempranillo or Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. And finally, if you are serving croquettes with a creamy mustard sauce, look for an elegant Chardonnay or Chablis.