Thanksgiving weekend is full of opportunity to be creative with leftover turkey. Nothing beats the simplicity of a day-after turkey sandwich (make sure to include a slather of cranberry sauce and a bit of stuffing), but it’s fun to see the creativity that an abundance of turkey inspires. Soup is a no-brainer, but I’ve also seen leftover turkey stuffed into tacos, chilaquiles, hash, stir-fries, bolognese, ravioli, frittatas, and scrambles. The possibilities are endless.
My mother-in-law had her own idea of how to serve up yesterday’s bird. When I wandered through her kitchen shortly before lunch, I saw what looked to be chicken pieces frying in a pot of bubbling oil. Fried chicken sounded good and seemed in line with the country cooking we usually eat when visiting. My first bite proved me wrong, though, as the “chicken” meat fell apart in my mouth. Turns out we were eating fried turkey balls. And they were good.
A nicely browned coating of whole wheat soda crackers surrounded a filling of turkey chunks, chopped fresh parsley, and a creamy white sauce. These salty, savory treats wouldn’t be out of place as an appetizer (accompanied by a creamy curry or herb-flecked buttermilk sauce for dipping) at a casual or even high-end restaurant. They threw me at first, but fried turkey balls are no stranger than the deep-fried pickles appearing on menus everywhere.
Looking for more detail, I learned the recipe had been adapted from one for Chicken Croquettes found in 1962’s Favorite Recipes of American Home Economics Teachers, Meats Edition. (Have I mentioned my mother-in-law is a retired home ec teacher?) Fried turkey balls are simply a spin on old-school chicken croquettes. (What’s old is new again!) They were fun to eat, as are most finger foods. They also balanced textures well with a crispy-and-light shell and creamy-yet-substantial inside. The filling is all about the turkey, but gets a flavor boost from a shot of black pepper and touch of fresh herbs.
I’d never declare myself a fried food fan, though I thoroughly enjoyed my mother-in-law’s take on leftover turkey. And from the looks of the empty platter at lunch today, I wasn’t the only one sold on fried turkey balls.
How did you serve up your leftover bird? (For you Australian readers, note that The Melbourne cooking classes are available in sit-down and hands-on formats, with intimate classes being the best way to learn and have fun. Click here to learn more.)
Turkey Croquettes (a.k.a. Fried Turkey Balls)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup turkey (or chicken) stock
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons pepper
- 2 cups diced cooked turkey
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoons chopped fresh)
- 2 large eggs, divided
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups crushed soda crackers or dried breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil, for frying
In saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour; mix until blended. Slowly stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until thick and creamy. Stir in turkey and parsley. Remove from heat.
In bowl, beat 1 egg; stir into chicken mixture. Return to heat; cook 1 minute longer. Cool. Shape mixture into balls.
In shallow bowl, whisk together remaining egg, the milk, and lemon juice, if using. Place crackers or breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowl. Roll turkey balls in egg mixture, then crumbs. Fry in 375°F oil 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towel; transfer to warm oven while frying remaining balls. Makes 12 servings.