HAPPY THANKSGIVING – time to use the leftovers!

Hi there,

Thanksgiving 2021 I am guessing is a truly day of thanks this year. For most of us, we are celebrating (indoors) with our family. Last year really brought home the meaning of this holiday.

The end of Thanksgiving day for the cooks looks like this –

But for a lot of us, the turkey leftovers are the best part of the meal. I recently had dinner with my friend Donny and he told me how he helped his Mom make Turkey Croquettes the day after Thanksgiving. From the huge smile on his face, I could tell this was his happy memory from childhood Thanksgiving.

What follows is Donny’s Mom’s recipe. He told me his job was to turn the crank.

Turkey croquettes – I remember them. I used to help mom make them. They’re actually pretty easy but of course there was nothing written down about amounts 😉 

Anyway, here it is. 

You need a meat grinder. NOT a blender or food processor, a meat grinder like for making sausage. Use a medium grate/grid/plate. Mom’s was one that clamped onto the table and was cranked by hand (I should get one, they’re useful). 

You also need a deep fryer. NOT an air fryer, I doubt it would work well. 

Ingredients – 

left over turkey

onion

celery

bread or leftover stuffing (probably bread, because there’s never really stuffing left over)

egg and plain breadcrumbs for breading (NOT panko, you’re not going for texture, you’re going for coverage)

You can use some spices, mom never bothered. If you use spices, maybe a little sage/rosemary? Parsley would be OK. 

Everything gets run through the grinder except the egg/breadcrumbs. EVERYTHING. You should have more turkey than anything else. One onion and a couple stalks of celery should be enough, and a slice or two of bread (leftover rolls would work too). The bread is to absorb some of the liquid from the onion/celery. If you use leftover stuffing, cut down on the onion/celery (because there’s some in the stuffing)

Mix everything you ground up together. Make some white sauce (classic Bechamel sauce). It needs to be pretty thick. Mix the white sauce into the meat/veg/bread mixture until it sticks together well. You don’t want it too saucy, it just helps hold it together. How much you need depends on the amount of onion/celery vs. turkey. More onion/celery will mean a bit less sauce, because the onion/celery add a lot of moisture.

Form the mixture into classic croquette shapes. You could do balls if you wanted to, we never did. Cover them with foil/plastic (Mom always used waxed paper, so that works too) and refrigerate at least a few hours or overnight. They need to be pretty firm before you bread them. 

Mix the egg with a little water. Roll the croquettes in egg, then breadcrumbs. Make sure they’re well breaded. Refrigerate again. (this is obviously not a last minute dish 😉 ). 

Then, FINALLY, you deep fry them a few at a time. There should be enough  oil in the pan to cover them. Not sure what temperature, Mom always did them on the stove. They only take a few minutes. Remember, everything is cooked already (or could be eaten raw), so all you’re really doing is cooking the breading and getting them hot. 

By the time they were getting fried up, we really wanted those croquettes. I remember sneaking one before they were breaded, because I couldn’t wait. We used to put ketchup on them, but turkey gravy or a nice Bechamel sauce would work as well. 

It’s really a process, and without the right tools it won’t work. The fact that it takes 2 days is probably the biggest reason why people don’t make them. That, and the frying. 

Though, now that I think about it, the croquette mixture would probably make a really nice sausage. Different texture than most sausage, but the flavor would be good. And there’s no reason you couldn’t make patties and fry them in a frying pan. 

For those of us who do not have a meat grinder, here is another recipe for turkey croquettes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely diced celery
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 10 ounces ground turkey
  • ½ cup cubed white bread
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup dry bread crumbs

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oil in a skillet, add celery and onion and saute until lightly browned. Stir in the turkey and saute, stirring until it loses its color. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.
  2. Soak the bread in the milk until soft. Squeeze out the bread and mix with the turkey. Add the egg, mustard, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Form the turkey mixture into patties and coat with bread crumbs. Refrigerate until shortly before serving time.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the turkey patties on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides.


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