A vegetarian main dish for a special meal that can easily be made vegan for a Thanksgiving entree.
We loved croquettes when I was growing up! But we usually got them only a few days after Thanksgiving, or if Mom made a big roasting chicken and had a bunch of “little meat” left over. They are labor intensive, but fun to make once in a while. She would pluck every possible piece of poultry from the carcass: the back, the ends of the wings, the neck, and the tail, which she affectionately called “the piece that jumped over the fence last.”
Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside
She loved making these, and said they needed to be crisp on the outside and oozing wonderfully soft on the inside. All of the time when we were growing up, her deep fat frying was done in a little wire basket that fit perfectly in one of her saucepans, and she never used a thermometer. Just held her hand over the pan to see if the temperature was right.
Use a thermometer please!
Luckily, over the years, we only had one major grease fire in our kitchen. But it was as good one! I would strongly advise using a thermometer.
We need to please a wide range of dietary needs in our family and friends circle, so I thought a special redux of the traditional croquettes recipe was in order. I swapped out lightly cooked shiitake mushrooms for the cooked turkey in this recipe, and bumped up some of the seasoning. I infused the soy milk I used with fresh rosemary and bay, added more Bell’s Seasoning, and used the zest of the lemon as well as the juice (Mom used the funny little squeeze lemon from the market, her addition as her mother didn’t include the lemon!). I omitted the egg as it made the mixture too wet.
I chose to shallow fry in my cast-iron frying pan rather than deep fry because I think the results are pretty close and at the time I didn’t have all that oil on hand! While this may be a little more environmentally friendly in that it doesn’t use meat, it is not a health food dish, but rather a treat as is anything that is deep fried. But Sunday dinners and holiday feasts are perfect times to deviate just a bit!
While mom shaped her croquettes like little cones, that shape doesn’t work well in a shallow pan, so I chose to make patties. You can also make a more traditional log shape.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much Mom’s recipe!
This is a perfect main dish for a vegetarian or vegan at Thanksgiving who has had enough stuffed squash. Or Tofurkey…
Shiitake Mushroom Croquettes with Lemon Saffron Sauce
- 1 lb. shiitake mushrooms, minced
- 1 large onion, minced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. Bell’s Seasoning
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ¼ cup coconut milk or milk of choice
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3 cup butter or vegan butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- Few grates of nutmeg
- 1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
- 1 tsp. Worcester sauce or tamari
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- Zest of a lemon
Either mince the mushrooms and onion by hand, or pulse in a food processor.
Heat a large skillet and add olive oil, mushrooms, and onion. Sauté until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid and it has evaporated, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, Bell’s, cayenne, salt, and pepper and cook a few minutes longer. Set aside in a shallow dish.
Gently heat the milk of choice, I used unsweetened coconut milk here, and add the sprig of rosemary and bay leaf to infuse additional flavor.
In the mushroom cooking pan, make the roux. Melt butter and add the flour, whisking for a minute or so to cook the flour. Slowly add the warmed milk. Whisk in the nutmeg, paprika, and Worcester sauce. This will be quite thick, and will thicken more as it chills.
Add the white sauce to the mushroom mixture along with the lemon juice and zest and mix well. Taste for seasoning and correct, you will most likely need more salt at this stage. Keep the mixture spread out in the shallow dish and cover tightly with cling film.
Refrigerate for at least two hours.
Set up a breading station with a shallow bowl of flour seasoned with salt and pepper and a little more poultry seasoning in one; two eggs and a bit of milk (or, if making vegan, just the plant milk thickened with a little flax seed will do); and, seasoned panko breadcrumbs in the third.
Using an ice-cream scoop or measuring cup, divide and form the mushroom mixture into patties or balls of desired size. My standard ice-cream scoop made 9 patties. Coat each evenly in the flour, then egg, then panko mixtures, setting each aside on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the patties in the refrigerator to firm up again, at least 30 minutes.
NOTE: This can all be done the day before, the sauce too! Just cover tightly, and remove from the refrigerator just before you are ready to cook them.
When ready to make the croquettes, place ½-inch of vegetable oil in a large cast-iron or other heavy frying pan and heat to 365 degrees.
Once the fat is hot, add four or five patties and cook until browned on the first side. Using two spatulas, gently flip and finish cooking on the second side. Remove to a paper towel to absorb excess oil, then place on a wire rack to cool.
Serve with the Lemon Saffron sauce below, and a sprinkling of parsley or chives. I can’t say how many it serves, but a lot. I ate one, my husband two, and we had plenty left over for two other meals!
Lemon Saffron Cream Sauce
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- Pinch of saffron
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
- 1 tbsp. butter or vegan butter, chopped up, optional
In a small pan, warm the coconut milk and add the saffron off heat. Keep warm while the saffron infuses the milk.
In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and add the shallot and garlic. Cook for a minute or so, then add the wine. Continue cooking until the wine has reduced to about a tablespoon.
Add the cornstarch, lemon zest, juice, and syrup, and mix well, then whisk in the steeped milk. Cook over medium heat until thickened. This happens fast.
Remove from heart, add the butter a little at a time, swirling it in to help enrich and thicken the sauce. You can strain this if you want a really smooth sauce, or leave it as is for more texture, the way I prefer it!
A little quicker option:
You can swap out leftover mashed potatoes for the white sauce and save a step! They are just as soft and creamy, and have a nice potato flavor!
My Mom’s vintage recipe:
Syliva’s Turkey (or Chicken) Croquettes
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 cup hot milk
- 2 cups minced left-over turkey (or chicken)
- 1 tbsp. finely minced onion
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- Few grinds of nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. celery salt
- 1 tsp. Bell’s seasoning
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. Worcester sauce
- Dash of hot sauce
Make a white cream sauce by melting butter in a pan and blending in the flour with a whisk. Slowly add milk and a little salt and pepper. Continue whisking until the sauce is thick and smooth. Add chicken and onion and reduce heat. Beat in eggs, cook for one minute and add the rest of the seasoning. Spread mixture in a dish. Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. When it is cool, shape it as you wish and roll each croquette in seasoned flour, then in a mixture of egg diluted with milk, then back again in crumbs. Make sure entire croquette is covered or it will leak into the fat.
Place four croquettes in a frying basket and cook until brown at a medium fat temperature (I’ve since determined it is about 365 degrees).
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