Popular in the USA during the 1940’s and 50’s, Retro Favorites #4 ~ Chicken Croquettes is one of those comfort food items that you unfortunately don’t often see anymore.
While varieties of croquettes are found in the cuisine of many cultures around the world, the word “croquette” is derived from the French croquer meaning “to crunch.” Recipes for croquettes were noted in France as early as 1691. But it was Monsieur Escoffier who began writing down the recipes in the late 1800’s.
Originally considered a delicacy for royalty, the croquette became widely known as a way for chefs to use up leftover cooked meats and vegetables. Generally, a croquette combines meat or vegetables with seasonings and bread crumbs; which is then shaped as a cone, cylinder, ball or patty, and fried in oil or fat. Many of the fussier recipes use a rich bechamel (white) sauce as the base, but here we will use simple mashed potatoes.
Chicken Croquettes would never have been seen on the Lista’s menu, so this is another recipe I learned to make by watching — not a TV show — but my Uncle Jerry Lista.
My Dad had two younger brothers and a younger sister. While both my uncles were involved in the restaurant over the years, my Uncle Ray eventually lived and worked near Buffalo and I didn’t see much of him. Uncle Jerry, on the other hand, stayed in Brockport for many years, and our families were often together.
Uncle Jerry was a vibrant, fun-loving, hard working man who easily made friends and always had an off-color joke to tell. And like my Dad, he had a strong culinary aptitude. At different times Uncle Jerry applied his cooking and management skills in some of the better restaurants in the Rochester area. His specialty was steaks and seafood, so when Lista’s expanded in the 70’s to add a char-broiler kitchen, Uncle Jerry ran the show and I got to see up close that he was a truly masterful cook.
Uncle Jerry was also a great home chef, and it was in his kitchen that I learned how to make these Chicken Croquettes. I remember standing in the kitchen watching how Uncle Jerry mixed the ingredients and carefully hand formed each croquette explaining that traditional croquettes are cone shaped, so that’s the way he made them. He also told me that the proper way to make a croquette is to use a thick white sauce and add the meat, veggies, bread crumbs, etc. then form them and fry them… but as a short cut he often used leftover mashed potatoes and baked them in the oven (and I still prefer them made that way).
Sadly, Uncle Jerry passed away in 1998 only 3 days after his 61st birthday. He is missed.
Uncle Jerry’s Chicken Croquettes
Prep time: 20-30 minutes
Cook time: 30-45 minutes
Total time: 2-3 hours with chilling
Makes: 12-15 croquettes
2 cups Prepared Mashed Potatoes – cooled
2 TBSP Butter – melted
1/4 cup Milk or Chicken Broth
1 tsp Dry Parsley
3/4 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Poultry Seasoning
1/4 cup Plain Bread Crumbs
1/2 small Onion – minced
1 large Egg – beaten
1 1/2 cups Roasted Chicken Meat – finely chopped
3/4 cup Panko Crumbs
1 large Egg – beaten
1 TBSP water
Olive oil cooking spray
1. In a bowl mix together the potatoes, butter, milk, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and parsley until combined but not smooth (you want some texture). Add 1 egg, minced onion, and ¼ cup plain bread crumbs. Mix to combine. The mixture will be sticky. Fold in the chopped chicken until just combined. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
2. When you’re ready to make croquettes, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with rack in the middle. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper and cooking spray.
3. In a shallow bowl or pie plate beat the remaining egg with 1 TBSP water. In a second bowl or pie plate add the panko crumbs.
4. Make an assembly line starting with the croquette mixture, egg and then breadcrumbs with the baking sheet at the end.
5. Using your hands, take about 1/3 cup of the mixture and form into cone shaped croquettes (or the shape you choose).
– Dip, coating all sides, in the egg mixture.
– Roll in the panko and coat evenly. (Panko crumbs make a crunchier coating.)
– Place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet (reshape cones if needed) and repeat making the rest of the croquettes. Generously spray the croquettes with olive oil cooking spray.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 30-45 minutes until nicely brown and internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees F.
7. Serve with homemade or store bought chicken gravy or the traditional white sauce recipe below.
To make Basic White Sauce (about 1 cup):
Melt 3 TBSP Butter in a small sauce pan, add 3 TBSP Flour and whisk until smooth. Cook “roux” for 3-5 minutes on med-low heat. Slowly add 1 cup Milk – whisking the entire time until incorporated. Continue to cook whisking occasionally until thickened. Season with Salt & Pepper to taste. Spoon over Chicken Croquettes before serving.
There you have it, Retro Favorite #4 ~ Chicken Croquettes with a small tribute to my uncle. This basic recipe works great with leftover mashed potatoes or you can whip up some instant potatoes instead. It’s best to use roasted chicken since it has more flavor — so the meat from a supermarket rotisserie chicken works great! And during the Holidays you can use that extra turkey or ham. So next time you have some leftovers why not give this recipe a try.
Note to my Gluten Free friends: I really like Metropolitan Gourmet Gluten Free Organic Breadcrumbs (I found them at Wegmans but they’re not listed on the website).
Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”