Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kinda Classic Chicken Croquettes




For birthdays at our house, the birthday person gets to chose what we have for dinner. There is an extremely short list of what gets chosen. The number one far and away has been linguine with a white clam sauce, which for the Rock house, is the default spaghetti. There is often a request for green chili enchiladas, and my son James usually wants chicken croquettes. Chicken croquettes never graced our table growing up, and I admit, the very name makes me think of overstuffed chairs, doilies and cut glass candy dishes with last years candy corn in them. BUT, I found a recipe for these that I have made over the years, and I am glad that on some random day in my past I had decided to try these, although this is a variation on the original recipe. They are baked, not fried, as they traditionally would be, but still develop a very nice crispy exterior, with a creamy interior. They go well with a lot of different things, and I imagine you could dress them up, maybe make a curry version, or one with vegetables mixed in. perhaps add some sauteed mushrooms . . . But these are fairly classic in their way, nothing fancy, but as is, a wonderful comfort food that keeps well as leftovers and travels well to dorms and other adult children's abodes.

The following pictures represent a tripled recipe, so if it does not match the single written version below, do not be confused.

Chicken Croquettes
Serves 4

Prep: 20 min./Chill: 2 hours/Cook: 40 min.

3 Tbl. butter
3 Tbl. flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken (maybe about a pound? I use chicken breasts, but anything would work)
1-1/4 cups dry bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I use the green box kind for this, no need to waste the good stuff.)

I start by cooking off my chicken, I submerge it in seasoned water, salt, pepper and some garlic, and boil it until it is tender and completely cooked. I use my old giant Oscar processor (do they even make these any more?), with its chopping blade. I place this in a large bowl.

You could certainly chop this by hand, but this works well, a smaller, consistent chop helps hold it together.

In a sauce pan or skillet, I melt the butter, and when bubbling, add the flour, and stir into a paste, basically making a roux.
This is equal parts flour and butter
Let this bubble for a minute or two, and add in the broth and milk, stirring to completely  incorporate into the roux. Keep heat at about medium high. Add salt and pepper, and stir until thickened. You want it to be able to coat the back of a spoon. Once it reaches the right thickness, set it off the heat and let it cool down for about 5 minutes or so, so it won't cook the eggs in the meat mixture. If you want to introduce different seasonings, I would suggest you add them to the sauce here, for example, adding some curry powder, or maybe some cheese.

The white sauce works like glue to hold all the chicken bits together

Add the liquids after letting the roux bubble a bit.
You want the sauce thick enough to coat a spoon, but not too gooey or clumpy.
To the chicken, add 1 cup of dry bread crumbs and the eggs. Mix well, so that the eggs and crumbs are evenly mixed throughout, and then add the cooled white sauce. At this point, you want to chill this, covered, in the refrigerator for two hours. This helps set up the meat and the sauce.
Remember, this shows a tripled recipe! You could add green onions here, or some parsley . . .
The crumbs make the meat fairly dry, so make sure you mix the sauce in evenly.

The mixture will be very moist and sticky, but as it cools, will be very easy to shape and bake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard cookie sheet, spray oil works. Combine Parmesan cheese and remaining bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or dish. You will want to shape the meat mixture into 8 equal patties, I shape them like burgers. You want them to hold their shape but handle them as little as possible, you don't want them too dense.
They should be somewhat spaced out. I stagger them so the heat flows evenly around all the edges.
Once you get one shaped, carefully coat it all over with some crumb mixture, and repeat, place one at a time as you prepare them, evenly spaced on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. I flip them over half way through, to allow both sides to brown nicely. You could also drizzle the tops with a little additional butter to aid in the browning, but I rarely do this.

Try not to over cook them, so they retain a nice creamy moist center. Serve with a cranberry sauce if you really want to work that nostalgic angle, or make some extra white sauce to use like a gravy.

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