thanksgiving leftovers, deep-fried

If you think you can’t possibly contemplate another bite of leftover turkey, consider this: deep fried, crumb-coated turkey.


I think I fell in love with turkey croquettes on a family road trip when I was about 5 or 6. We stopped at a restaurant that (I think) was called the Pennsylvania Dutch something – it was like Cracker Barrel, Lancaster County style. I ordered turkey croquettes, probably because the name alone is so charming. Out came a plate of pear-shaped, fried lovelies sitting in a pool of turkey gravy with a side of mashed potatoes. I was in heaven


Turkey croquettes became a staple of my family’s post-Thanksgiving leftovers repertoire, and they were always served with mashed potatoes and gravy. I’m pretty sure the recipe came from a very battered old copy of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. All the awkward bits of the bird that couldn’t be neatly stacked in a sandwich were finely chopped, seasoned and bound together with a cream sauce. Once this mixture chilled, we would shape it into Clementine-sized footballs, coat the croquettes in flour, egg and bread crumbs, and deep-fry them.

 croquettes post-fry

As an adult, I’ve never made turkey croquettes … until today. Despite my love for croquettes, I couldn’t bring myself to serve deep-fried turkey (held together by cream sauce, no less) with more gravy and potatoes whipped up with a stick of butter. But then I had a revelation – croquettes served on a salad with sliced pears and dried cherries. The sweetness of the fruit is a perfect compliment to the rich, savory croquettes and the plate of leafy greens helps you get past the fact that you are eating deep-fried leftovers.


Even my sister, who was very skeptical and insisted that I serve her croquettes with potatoes and gravy (and salad on the side), agreed that the combination was perfect and that these were the best croquettes she could remember eating.


Turkey Croquettes

Adapted from Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook


3 ½ cups finely chopped, cooked turkey (about ¼” pieces)

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons finely minced onion

1 clove of garlic, pressed

3 tablespoons flour

1 ½ cups fresh or canned turkey broth, hot

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

pinch of nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 egg yolks

2 small ribs celery, finely diced

1 teaspoon minced tarragon

about 1 cup flour (for dredging)

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk beaten, with water

1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs

canola oil for frying


In a bowl, combine the chopped turkey, celery and tarragon and set aside.


In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until foaming subsides. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté about 1 minute more. Stir in flour and whisk for 2-3 minutes to form a thick roux. Slowly add the hot turkey stock, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the yolks, whisking vigorously. Return the pan to the heat and cook briefly, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper and taste for seasoning. Pour cooked sauce into bowl with chopped turkey and stir to combine. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the mixture and chill at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.


In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat about 2” canola oil to 350º. Remove turkey mixture from refrigerator. Using an ice cream scoop with ¼ cup capacity (or a greased ¼ cup measuring cup), scoop out croquette mixture and, with your hands, mold into a squat cylinder. You should have about 14 croquettes. Dredge each croquette in flour, then egg wash, then panko. Deep fry croquettes, about 4 at a time depending on the size of your pot, until golden brown and crispy on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Place finished croquettes on a rack set over a baking sheet. Finished croquettes can be kept warm in a 200º oven until ready to serve.


For the salad:

Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and a large bowl. Whisk to emulsify. Add about 1 lb mesculun greens, 2 pears (peeled and sliced) and ¼ cup dried cherries. Toss.


Serve croquettes on a plate atop salad. 


3 responses to “thanksgiving leftovers, deep-fried

  1. It looks beautiful and delicious. Although with 3 egg yolks it’s a wonder you lived through the weekend.
    It makes me want to try frying all my leftovers.


  2. Three egg yolks is nothing, Kiki; Mr. Claiborne’s original recipe called for “3 1/2 cups chopped turkey, meat and SKIN.”

  3. Those make leftovers look actually appealing! Delicious.

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