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Turkey croquettes can transform your Thanksgiving leftovers

Here's a sobering thought as we all look forward to the bounty of Thanksgiving dinner: According to the subtitle of a study first published in 2012 and updated in 2017 by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, "America is losing up to 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill."

The largest part of food waste happens at home, with an average of 238 pounds of food per person being tossed out every year.

On a helpful, hopeful note, the report also includes smart suggestions consumers can follow to reduce home food waste. These include shopping wisely; understanding sell-by, use-by, and best-by dates on packaged products; decluttering and organizing refrigerators, freezers and pantries; freezing properly packaged foods for longer storage; sharing food with friends and family; and even recycling scraps by composting them or feeding them to backyard chickens.

The suggestion I like the most, though, is simply to save and reuse leftovers. Some of the most flavorful dishes I know start with good leftovers. If you get into the habit of reutilizing them from your home-cooked meals (or food you take home from restaurants), you'll do your part toward combatting a food waste crisis.

And what wonderful opportunities will await you the morning after Thanksgiving. Leftover turkey and roast vegetables can be diced and fried in a cast-iron skillet to make a succulent hash. The turkey carcass and some fresh aromatic vegetables and herbs can be simmered to make broth or soup. Sandwiches and salads will be natural bonuses from the roast, too.

But maybe you want to do something even more creative. With that in mind, I'm happy to share with you a traditional recipe for leftover turkey (or ham, beef, pork or chicken, for that matter) from Aram Mardigian, executive chef at my Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey: turkey croquettes.

Croquettes get their name from the French word croquer, meaning "to crunch," a perfect description of the pleasing results that come from how they're formed and cooked. The main ingredient, in this case leftover turkey, is minced and mixed with seasonings - feel free to vary them as you like - and a creamy sauce made by thickening stock with a little flour and butter roux. Once cooled, the mixture is shaped into balls, coated with eggs and breadcrumbs, and fried until heated through and crunchy golden brown.

You can serve them with gravy or even alternatives like your favorite tomato sauce or good-quality bottled chutney, along with some rice or mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.

I hope you'll give this comfortingly old-fashioned recipe a try - and do your own part in combatting post-holiday food waste!


Serves 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour

2 cups (500 ml) good-quality canned low-sodium chicken broth or stock, heated to a simmer

4 cups (1 l) cooked turkey meat, picked free of bones, skin, fat, or gristle

2 tablespoons minced yellow onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne

23/4 cups (685 ml) fine dried breadcrumbs, plain or seasoned

4 large eggs

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stirring briskly with a wire whisk, sprinkle in the flour to form a smooth paste. Continue stirring in a figure-8 motion and cook until this roux looks bubbly but is still light in color, 3 to 5 motion.

Still stirring briskly with the whisk, pour in the hot chicken broth. Simmer, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens to a thick, creamy consistency. Remove from the heat.

Work in batches if your processor is not large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably. Put the turkey meat, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade. Add the warm sauce and pulse the machine on and off until the turkey meat is just barely but evenly minced; the mixture still should have some good texture to it. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and leave it until it is cool enough to form with your hands.

Break the eggs into a large, shallow bowl and beat them with a fork or whisk until the yolks and whites are evenly combined. Spread the breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl or on a large plate.

With clean hands moistened with a little cold water, form some of the turkey mixture into a ball about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter; turn into in the beaten eggs to coat it, then immediately roll it gently in the breadcrumbs until coated. Transfer to a large clean platter or tray, gently flattening them slightly to form thick discs. Repeat with the remaining turkey mixture, eggs, and breadcrumbs.

In a large frying pan or skillet with high sides, heat about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of oil over high heat until it reaches 350∞F (180∞C) on a deep-frying thermometer.

Add several of the croquettes to the frying pan, taking care not to crowd the oil, and fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes total; use a wire skimmer or slotted spoon to turn them over gently about halfway through the cooking time. Transfer the fried croquettes to a platter lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining croquettes.


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