Turkey Croquetas: Thanksgiving Leftover Recipe with a Spanish Twist

Turkey Croquetas: Thanksgiving Leftover Recipe with a Spanish Twist

My second favorite part of Thanksgiving, after the dinner with friends and family of course, is the leftovers. Just eating the same Thanksgiving dinner multiple days actually doesn't get old for me.

But, with just a bit more work (yes, even more after the grueling work of preparing the dinner itself), the leftovers can be transformed into some of my favorite dishes. My go-to leftover transformation every year is individual turkey pot pies. Basically, it's just about making a roux with butter and flour, adding in stock (and/or gravy), leftover turkey, leftover green beans, diced onion and carrots if you want, and then topping it with leftover pie crust (or pie crust you make fresh for the pot pies). I like to put these in individual tins, which are so easy to freeze.

Note the special design of my roommate made for me, in the middle.

And for days when I really don't have time to cook something, I just pop one in the oven at ~200 Celsius (~400 Fahrenheit) for 45-55 minutes, and a pretty balanced dinner is ready.

This year, I had a ton of extra turkey. I actually prepared two turkeys, for a group that ended up being 11 (since there were a couple people that weren't sure until the very end). I probably would have prepared two turkeys anyway, because one year I prepared only one turkey, and had so little in the way of leftovers that I was quite sad! After all, preparing two turkeys really isn't more work than preparing one, I might as well get more turkey out of the prep work I figure!

So what to do with this extra turkey? This year, I was inspired by the Spanish tapa, croquetas de puchero, or croquettes made with leftover meat from a stew they called puchero. Now, this puchero can have many different kinds of meat all together, depending on region and recipe - for example, the puchero that my roommate's mother makes includes chicken, pork, AND beef, AND pork meatballs!

Of all of the croquetas in Spain, I like the puchero and chicken ones the very best. That's because these croquetas have kind of a pulled pork / pulled chicken quality to them, and the meat is substantial enough to give body to the filling, meaning that the roux or béchamel that binds the meat can be more runny and molten. In contrast, the jamón and cheese croquetas tend to be very firm on the inside, because the jamón is in little cubes and the cheese is well, cheese, and so there's nothing there to hold its shape except more flour to make the roux or béchamel more stiff.

After searching and searching for a croqueta de puchero recipe online, I came across a recipe from this blog La Cocina de Inma. I was drawn to it because it specifically showed croquetas with a molten interior, and also addressed the fact that there is a debate among croqueta makers of whether to use broth or milk. I very much wanted to stick to using only turkey broth, not only because I had a lot of it, but also because I felt the flavor would be more intensely turkey.

So, taking the measurements and process as a base, I adapted the recipe to the quantities and ingredients that I had.

- 600g leftover turkey meat: can be from the roasted bird, or even the flavorless scraps attached to the bones that were used to make broth

- 110g / 1 cup flour

- 110g / 0.5 cup butter

- 4 cups broth

- 2 cups roasted onion gravy (recipe below): I used this because my gravy already has onions blended in, and a bit less flour to broth ratio than original croqueta recipe, so the combination with the 1 cup flour and 4 cups broth above gives an even more molten interior. Without this, I would just increase the above ingredients to 165g/1.5 cup flour, 165g/0.75 cup butter, and 6 cups broth, and add in a half onion, diced and sautéed, if desired.

- 4 eggs

- breadcrumbs

1. So to begin, take the turkey meat and pulse it in a food processor so that it's well shredded and  in relatively short shreds. This allows the sauce to better envelop the meat and prevents pulling out big strings of meat when you bite in.

2. In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium heat (don't let it burn), and then stir in the flour so that the flour cooks. Then whisk in the broth, 1 cup at a time. At this point, I add in the roasted onion gravy. Since this is a sauce made with butter, flour, and broth, it's called a velouté, so I learned! Otherwise, if you use milk, it's called a bechamel.

3. Combine the sauce with the meat, and then put it in a 13 x 9in baking dish (11 x 7in also works - this is what I used - the layer just becomes taller). Cover with plastic wrap so that the plastic touches the mixture to avoid drying out, and then let it firm up in the fridge overnight.

4. The next day, beat the eggs in a shallow bowl, and place the breadcrumbs on a plate. I then cut the firm meat mixture into roughly even rectangles to help with portioning out the croquetas. I got about 30 jumbo croquetas, but you should be able to get maybe double the number of regular-sized croquetas out of this recipe.

It's handy to have friends help you, hee hee!

5. Roll the meat mixture into logs, then what I like to do is dip them in breadcrumbs, then in egg, then in breadcrumbs again. Somehow i think that this makes the crust stick better. Or you can just dip in egg, and then breadcrumbs.

Finally, it's frying time! Just heat up oil in a large pot, and then start frying the croquetas until golden brown on the outside. Remember that the inside is basically all cooked, so you're just cooking the outside and letting the interior get all molten. Let the croquetas rest a bit on paper towels to soak up excess grease.

And here's money shot, showing that meaty, gooey inside!

So, there's my new addition to Thanksgiving leftovers this year! With a full-sized Turkey Pot Pie, and some potato chips made with leftover potatoes, it was quite the feast (if a bit monochromatic in nature)!

(As promised, here's the recipe for the Roasted Onion Gravy:

1. Roast 4 turkey wings on top of 2 quartered onions, 170 Celsius / 340 Fahrenheit.

2. Reserve the wings for another use, and reserve the onions for later in this recipe. Transfer the juices accumulated at the bottom of the pan to a large saucepan, heat over medium heat, being aware of splattering.

3. Once the water is boiled away, whisk in 80g/0.75 cups of flour into the turkey grease.

4. Then whisk in 5 cups of turkey broth, 1 cup at a time.

5. Separately, puree the roasted onions with another 1/2 cup of turkey broth, and then whisk into the saucepan.

6. Add salt to taste, approximately 3.5 teaspoons.)

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