Friday, January 8, 2010
In my last post, I mentioned these little gems of deliciousness that have been a New Year's dinner tradition in the Risley family since before I was born...but since my mom died, it’s much more than a traditional holiday meal to me. Every time I make croquettes, I can feel Mom’s presence. I hear her voice as I grind, mix, form, and fry each one. I feel her watching (and gently correcting) my technique just as she did when she taught me to make these long ago. Making croquettes is the definition of comfort food, an act of love that continues to connect me to my mom, dad, and brothers even though they’re all gone. It’s an act of love that I can pass on to my own kids in hopes that they will have as many fond family memories as I do. In order to become keepers of the croquette flame, they’ll need both the history and the process…because that’s what traditions are all about. This post is for our family, both near and far...for my kids here at home, our family in Florida, and all over the US, be they Schoelles or Risley...and especially for my two great-nephews, Owen and Ethan. This is your great-grandmother Risley's recipe, boys..ask your Mom and Dad to make these for you!
My mom always said that she started making croquettes out of necessity when my brothers were little; one year after Christmas, my folks had very little money and lots of turkey leftovers. Mom was bemoaning the fact that she couldn't afford to make a fancy New Year's dinner to an elderly neighbor lady. The neighbor gave her this recipe which efficiently combines leftover turkey, stuffing, and gravy into a whole new meal...and a tradition was established. We never let Mom off the hook after that…every Christmas, we had to have a really big turkey so that there were a lot of leftovers for croquettes for New Year’s dinner. The tradition continues in our house today…when Kate heard we were having prime rib for Christmas dinner, her first question was (in a panicky, shrill voice)"But what about turkey croquettes?" I can hear my mother laughing….
Umm, sorry, Mom didn’t measure…ever…good luck with amounts!
Dark and white turkey, trimmed of fat and gristle
Turkey gravy (reserve some for dinner)
Plain bread crumbs
Canola oil (Mom used Crisco but I like my arteries the way they are)
Use a meat grinder to grind the trimmed meat and stuffing together. Mix well, then pour warm gravy over the ground stuff and mix again. The mixture should be moist but no soupy, just enough so that it will stick together when formed into a small oval that looks like a small football. (Mom always cautioned me to seal up any cracks in the croquettes so they wouldn’t disintegrate in the hot oil.) Once you have a sealed little football, roll it gently in bread crumbs and place it on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Repeat the process….over and over. Lots of leftovers mean lots of croquettes…and they freeze well for future meals. Once you’ve formed the croquettes, put them in the fridge to chill for a while (at least an hour). Fill a frying pan with enough oil to cover the croquettes (or you can use a deep fryer if you have one). The oil has to be really hot in order to get the croquettes crispy on the outside but still creamy and moist on the inside. Drop the chilled croquettes into the hot oil, frying them in batches until golden brown. Remove fried croquettes and place them on paper towels to drain off excess oil. Croquettes can be kept warm in the oven while you clean up the mess from frying and make the rest of dinner. They can also be cooked in advance and then reheated at dinnertime, 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes, longer if they’re frozen.
Serve with gravy, mashed potatoes, leftover cranberry-orange relish and a veggie (or ask us for Craig’s fabulous recipe for Hoppin’ John, our newest New Year’s dinner tradition.) Enjoy…take a bow…thanks, Mom.