You won’t find me waking up at 4 a.m. on Black Friday to take advantage of any, and I mean ANY, sale. Clothes and shoes and cappuccino machines, while infinitely desirable, will have to wait until my food coma dissipates and I feel a little more motivated…just to move my arms, for instance.
Only the memory of Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator gives me that metaphorical jolt of caffeine to rouse me from my sludgy stupor. It forces me on my feet because I know that, once in the kitchen opening up those assorted Tupperware containers, I will feel more giddy and vivacious than I ever hoped to feel on Black Friday. It’s tantamount to unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning. Well, for me anyway.
‘The herb and sausage dressing!’ I’ll whisper as I bring those savory bread cubes to my nose and inhale its deep sage aroma as deeply as I would an essential oil. ‘Oh, and here’s the butter-pecan sweet potatoes!’ I’ll say while peeking into yet another container, which to my delight, turns out to be an apple, leek, and butternut squash gratin. I coo and clasp my hands. You probably see how this might go on and on, and you would be right. It does.
Sure, I may have spent 72 hours preparing food that takes maybe a concentrated hour to consume at the dinner table, but now it’s payback time. Like in the movie Groundhog Day, I get the thrill of reliving the same glorious meal for the next two days without expending much effort outside of maybe reheating something. As an added bonus, the remnants of the feast end up tasting even better, as the ingredients in each dish have had a chance to settle into one another and meld. For years, these two specific days have fueled my zeal during the laborious Thanksgiving day preparations. They have caused me to roll out more pastry dough and to peel more potatoes than I ever thought possible.
There’s only one little problem. Depending on how much food has been prepared, you may still have leftovers past the second day. What then? The Groundhog Day approach only works well for the first two days or so. Even Bill Murray got tired of reliving his day after a while. I know I’m mixing movie and TV show metaphors here, but eventually The Natives Get Restless. It’s inevitable. By day three, even the most delectable of mashed potatoes can make you weep tears of utter hopelessness if they land on your plate yet again.
Thankfully, counsel on how to transform Thanksgiving leftovers abounds. I found 347 different ways to ‘recycle’ them on the internet in under 10 minutes. In cheery tones, many sites proceed to turn turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and roasted root vegetables, in varying combinations, into frittatas, omelettes, burritos, won tons, stromboli, soups, sandwiches, casseroles and croquettes.
While some of the concoctions I found made my mouth water, many just looked like a big yummy ‘paciocco,’ which in Italian means a big mess. Overly layered with too many ingredients, these dishes resembled a crazy lady who couldn’t decide which coat to wear and so decided to wear them all. Yes, she’s also the one living with the 23 cats.
Inspired by so many Thanksgiving leftover concoctions, I decided to challenge myself with the quest to recycle as many of them as I could into something memorable. After pooh-poohing the idea of making yet another version of turkey soup or a turkey sandwich, I settled on the croquettes I feature below.
Because they consist of mostly leftovers, preparing them is mostly an assembly and pan-frying job. The only exception is grinding the roasted turkey meat in a food processor, which takes all but a minute. Ease notwithstanding, if a store sold them, I might be persuaded to go out and buy some on Black Friday. Maybe even at 4 a.m.
But enough talk.
These puppies offer the pillowy comfort of mashed potatoes, the savoriness of ground roasted turkey meat and the satisfying crunch of perfectly pan-toasted panko breakcrumbs. And the filling, which consists of cranberry sauce and a tiny piece of French triple cream cheese, adds the slightest hint of tartness and creaminess to boot.
They are also pretty easy to assemble.
making turkey croquettes
Place 14-16 ounces (about 2 ¼ cups) of leftover white turkey meat in a food processor. Start by pulsing it and then process it until it becomes ground and pebbly-looking.
Transfer it to a large bowl. Add 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes, 3/4 cups of freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 beaten egg, ½ teaspoon of freshly-grated nutmeg, and Kosher or sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste.
Mix thoroughly. The mixture will be firm enough that it will stick together when you form the croquettes.
Form oval croquettes with the mixture. With your index finger, create an indentation smack center of each croquette.
Place a tiny sliver of French Triple Cream or Brie Cheese and a ½ teaspoon of leftover cranberry sauce in the hole.
Then press the croquette around the filling to completely cover it. You may need to pinch off a bit of the potato mixture from the bottom of the croquette to cover the hole. Then, with cupped hands, reshape the oval. Then gently flatten the oval into a patty that 1 ½ to 2 inches wide.
Place 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs in a small, shallow bowl and 1/2 cup of white, unbleached flour in another small, shallow bowl.
Gently drop each croquette first into the bowl of flour and then the breadcrumbs. Flip them over each time to cover both sides. To ensure that the breadcrumbs stick to the croquettes, cup some breadcrumbs in your hand along with a croquette and gently press them together.
Cover the bottom of a 12-inch skillet with ¼ of an inch of oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and starts to create a wavy pattern on its surface but is not yet smoking, add the croquettes.
Cook them until they are golden, which is about 3 minutes per side. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. Serve immediately with leftover gravy and leftover cranberry sauce. Makes 15 croquettes.