Hi friends! I’m so happy to be back here. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my post from a few days ago where I finally announced why this year has been just a tad crazy. If you missed it, the reason for the radio silence lately is because I’ve been helping Peter move into a new office space as he begins a new life chapter running the family business. After working alongside his father for the past eighteen years, Peter is now at the helm of the business his dad started over forty years ago, and his dad is transitioning into retirement–at (almost) 80 years old, sharp as a tack, and filled with enough energy to run circles around me and Peter. We, on the other hand, are ready to sleep for two weeks straight. Now that life has settled down, I’m back to planning recipes and blog posts, starting with these chicken croquettes.
The recipe for these delightful morsels comes from Il Talismano della Felicità by Ada Boni, which is like Italy’s version of The Joy of Cooking. Most households in Italy will have a well-worn copy in the kitchen, and on our last trip to Italy six years ago, I bought my very own copy. My maternal grandmother referred to Il Talismano for many of the recipes she cooked, including these chicken croquettes. I don’t remember her making them very often, but when she did, they didn’t last long. My grandmother, along with her sisters and sister-in-law were/are masters of frittura (fried food) that Romans love so much. Growing up, I spent so much time helping and observing in my family’s kitchens, I’ve also become adept at frittura. Although I don’t make fried food very often, when I do, I make sure to use the best ingredients to get the best flavor. The extra calories have to be worth it!
Chicken croquettes are one of many examples of Italian’s creative and thrifty ways to use up leftovers. Ada Boni’s recipe calls for using poached chicken, which works well enough, but I prefer to make these using leftover roasted chicken. I’m not a fan of poaching chicken because I find that it doesn’t result in particularly juicy or tender meat. Roast chicken, on the other hand, is juicy, tender, and full of flavor from even a simple seasoning of salt, pepper, and olive oil. I make a roast chicken at least once a month, but I’m not above buying a rotisserie chicken from my grocery store, which makes them well. In Italy, you can get a roast chicken (and many other prepared foods) at a rosticceria, establishments that prepare food for take-away. If you are buying a roast chicken, be sure to buy a simply seasoned one and avoid the chickens with additional seasonings, as their flavor is too overpowering.
Béchamel sauce is the key component that makes these chicken croquettes luscious and flavorful. Ada Boni is very specific in her instructions for making the béchamel sauce “very dense and fairly elastic”. This isn’t characteristic of a proper béchamel sauce, but because the sauce helps bind the ingredients together, it has to thicken considerably. I achieved a thicker béchamel sauce by adding one extra tablespoon of flour to the roux and letting the sauce cool completely to room temperature before using it. Having all the other ingredients cool or at room temperature is necessary so the croquettes can be easily formed and breaded.
I remember my grandmother making her chicken croquettes larger and oval shaped, but because the croquettes are delicate once cooked, I decided to make mine round and smaller, which made them easier to flip and transfer out of the skillet. The delicate nature of the croquettes comes from the cooled béchamel sauce warming in the heat of the hot oil as they cook, giving the filling a creamy texture, so forming them into a smaller size reduces the risk of the croquettes splitting or breaking apart.
When you eat fried food in Italy, it is often served with a simple salad dressed with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Fried meats in particular are often served with a few lemon wedges. A spritz of the tart lemon juice and the acidity of the salad’s vinaigrette cut through the richness of the fried food and adds freshness. The chicken croquettes are plenty delicious the day they are made, but they are particularly flavorful the next day and they keep well, refrigerated, for two to three days after you make them. I snack on them straight out of the refrigerator or at room temperature, but they can also be re-heated in a moderate oven for a couple of minutes.
A very happy Friday to you! Friday Favorites will return next week. A presto!Print
Adapted from Il Talismano della Felicità by Ada Boni
Makes 10-12 croquettes
- 1 recipe béchamel sauce (you will use ¾ cups), cooled to room temperature
- 2 cups finely chopped roasted chicken (white and dark meat)
- 2–3 Tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
- 2 Tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grana Padano)
- 1 egg, separated
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (Italian seasoned or plain)
- 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- Begin by making the béchamel sauce. Once it is finished, set it aside to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. It will thicken considerably–this is what you want.
- Place the chicken, parsley, Parmigiano (or Grana), egg yolk, and ¾ cups béchamel sauce into a mixing bowl. Using a fork, mix the ingredients until thoroughly combined. The mixture should be thick. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes.
Prepare the breading station:
- Place the egg white in a shallow dish and whisk with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Place the breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Set aside a clean plate lined with wax paper.
- Using a large soup spoon (or a cookie scoop), scoop out about 2 generous tablespoons of the chicken mixture and form into a ball. Dip the ball lightly into the egg wash and then transfer it to the breadcrumbs and roll it around gently until it is completely coated, carefully patting it to form it into a compact round shape. Transfer the croquette to the wax paper-lined plate. Form the rest of the croquettes in the same manner.
Cook the croquettes:
- Line a baking sheet with 3 layers of paper towels. Heat the vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or a heavy-bottomed frying pan (not non-stick). Fry the croquettes in batches, making sure not to crowd them in the pan. They should have space between them so they can crisp up properly. Fry the croquettes, turning once, until golden.
- Transfer the cooked croquettes to the paper towel-lined baking sheet and allow to cool slightly before transferring them to a serving platter. Serve warm with fresh lemon wedges.
Since the croquettes are delicate, use two forks to turn them while they fry and to transfer them out of the frying pan.