Leftovers are typically the best part of Thanksgiving (no across-the-table nagging, sweatpants encouraged for lukewarm mashed potato binges…), and this year you’re likely to have more overstuffed tupperware than ever. And because there’s absolutely nothing traditional about 2020, it’s time you switch up your leftover game beyond sandwiches and try something new. Turkey croquetas, anyone?
“In Spain, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or eat turkey, so this was a new tradition for me when I came to the US,” says Chef Nico Lopez of José Andrés’ Mercado Little Spain in New York. Another unique aspect of the holiday? All the extra food. “The day after the holiday there are so many leftovers, that, to me, it was a no-brainer to make croquetas,” Lopez adds.
Traditionally, croquetas in Spain are made with jamón or chicken, but “the turkey works just as well and combines with the béchamel for a perfectly creamy bite,” Lopez says. “People say they get sick of eating leftovers after Thanksgiving, so when I introduce them to this Spanish twist it brings a whole new life to the dish they ate the night before.”
Try mixing in leftover mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, creamed spinach or even a dollop of cranberries in your croquetas for a personalized twist. “This croquetas recipe is the perfect way to use that leftover Thanksgiving turkey,” Lopez says, or really meat you cooked for the holiday, even pulled pork, or, Tofurkey, if you’ve got it. ¿Porque no?
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Croquetas de Pavo (Turkey Croquetas) by Chef Nico Lopez & Chef José Andrés
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2½ cups all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of nutmeg
10 ounces turkey, cooked and shredded (leftover Thanksgiving turkey works well)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 cups Spanish extra-virgin olive oil (this blend is recommended for frying)
Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until they’re translucent, about 5 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 ½ cups of the flour and continue stirring vigorously until well combined. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the mixture smells nutty and becomes beautifully golden in color. Pour the milk into the mixture, stirring continuously, and continue to cook for about 2 minutes, until you have a thick béchamel sauce. Season to taste with ½ teaspoon of salt and nutmeg.
Add the turkey and mix in until well combined. Cook for another 2 minutes, until you have a thick mixture you can mold in your hands. Carefully pick up a bit of the mixture and try to ball it with your hands. It shouldn’t be too sticky. If it does stick to your hands, allow the mixture to cook a little longer. Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet to allow it to cool.
Once it’s cool enough to handle, take a spoonful and roll it in your hands to make a small cylinder, about the size of a wine cork. Roll the cylinder in the remaining 1 cup of flour, then in the eggs, and then in the breadcrumbs, and set aside on another cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture. You should end up with about 36 croquetas.
In a small deep-frying pan, heat the olive oil to 375 F. Working in batches, add the croquetas, making sure they are covered completely in oil. Fry until golden, about 1 minute, then transfer to a tray lined with paper towel to drain. Be sure to allow the oil to return to 375 F between batches.
Season with salt and serve hot.