Saturday, May 18, 2013

Baked Chicken Croquettes with Buttermilk White Sauce

To download a copy of the recipe for Baked Chicken Croquettes with Buttermilk White Sauce, click HERE.

A healthier version of a diner classic, this chicken croquette – a delicious blend of chicken, onion, celery, garlic and seasonings – is baked instead of fried, and crowned with an easy-to-make buttermilk sauce. (If you’ve never had a chicken croquette, think of a crab cake but made with chicken instead of crab, and you’ll have the basic idea.)

Chicken croquettes are meant to be simple to make. Although cooking the chicken is included in this recipe, if you have left-over chicken or even a store-bought rotisserie chicken, that can be used instead. Once you get the general method for making croquettes, there no reason even to limit yourself to chicken.

Some Cook’s Notes before we begin:

  • Croquettes can be formed into many shapes: balls, elongated sausage-shape, even cones (formed by using a funnel as a mold). In this recipe I’ve made my croquettes into flat, thick ovals. There’s a reason for this. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I ate many a dinner of the frozen chicken croquettes Weaver made at that time. Since those were made in a flat, thick oval shape, that’s how I’ve been conditioned to visualize a chicken croquette. By all means, make yours whatever shape pleases you.

  • Although chicken croquettes are normally fried, the ones we’re making are “oven-fried,” or breaded and baked in a way that’s meant to remind the eater of fried. The breading mixture I like best for this uses crushed corn flakes for the breading. Panko works almost as well. I recommend avoiding regular bread crumbs, which are fine for normally breaded items but don’t give oven-fried food the texture you’re looking for.
  • Many chicken croquette recipes call for putting the chicken through a food processor. I prefer the mouth-feel of biting into a piece of chicken, so in this recipe we'll cut it into small chunks.

  • As part of the buttermilk white sauce, we’ll be making a roux. You might notice, however, that the 1-to-1 flour-to-fat ratio normally used for a roux is changed here to a ½ -to-1 ratio. This is because the buttermilk we’ll be using has its own thickness and texture to begin with, so we need to adjust the thickening properties of the roux we use.

A special note, too, about the number of servings we’ll be making. This recipe makes about 14 good-sized croquettes. How many portions is that? Let’s put it this way: when I served this at home, my wife’s portion was one croquette, and mine was two. With that in mind, you make the call for your family or guests. If it turns out 14 is too many, just reduce all the ingredients in proportion to each other. Note, however, that the cooked croquettes freeze very well, so making some extras may turn out to be a good idea after all.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the chicken seasoning mix: 2 tsp dried parsley; 1 tsp dried oregano; 1 tsp dried tarragon; 1 tsp dried thyme; 1 tsp dried rosemary; 1 tsp celery salt; 1 tsp ground ginger; ¼  tsp white pepper; ½  tsp dried sage.

For the baked chicken: 6 Tbsp butter substitute; 2 lbs. boneless chicken breast (or two lbs. of pre-cooked chicken)

For the croquette mixture: 1-1/2 cups fat free, low sodium chicken broth; 1-1/2 cups skim milk; 8 Tbsp butter substitute, divided;  2 medium stalks of celery, fine diced; 1 medium onion, fine diced;  4 garlic cloves, minced; 1 cup AP flour; 1 egg substitute egg

For the breading station: 1-1/2 cups reduced-fat buttermilk; 3 cups crushed corn flakes; 1-1/2 Tbsp garlic powder; 1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper; 3/4 tsp paprika; cooking spray

For the buttermilk white sauce: 2-1/2 Tbsp butter substitute; 4-1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour; 1-1/2 cup reduced-fat buttermilk; 1-1/2 tsp dried parsley; ½ tsp dried dill; ¾  tsp kosher salt; ¼ tsp garlic powder; ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

To make the seasoning you’ll use for the chicken and the croquette mixture:

Combine the Chicken Seasoning Mix ingredients and set aside till needed.

Next, prepare the chicken. (If you’re using left-overs or other pre-cooked chicken, you can skip this step.)

Begin preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Put butter substitute in a baking dish and place it in the oven to melt while the oven is pre-heating.

After the butter substitute has melted, remove the baking dish from the oven and stir 1 Tbsp of the seasoning mix into the liquid.

Rinse the chicken breasts and dry with paper towels. Place the breasts in the baking dish, coating each side with some of the butter mixture.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, turning the chicken breasts over half-way.

When the chicken has finished baking, remove from the oven and let rest in the baking dish for about 10 minutes. After the chicken has rested, cut into small pieces and set aside till needed.

Prepare the croquette mixture as follows:

Combine the broth, milk and 1 Tbsp of the seasoning mix in a small saucepan over medium heat; turn off the heat when the mixture just begins to boil.

While the broth mixture is heating, melt 6 Tbsp of the butter substitute in a skillet. Add the celery and onions and cook over medium heat until just tender, then add the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Reduce the heat under the skillet to low. Gradually stir in the flour, mixing very well, and cook until a lightly browned roux forms (about three minutes). Add additional butter substitute (up to 2 Tbsp) if the mixture appears too dry.

Add the broth mixture and stir until thickened and smooth.

Taste to make sure the floury taste has been cooked out; if necessary, cook for another minute or two.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Gently stir in the cooked chicken, and allow to cool fully. Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the egg substitute egg till combined. (Don’t try to short-cut letting the mixture cool; if it’s warm, it won’t hold its shape when you form the croquettes in the next step.)

To form and bread the croquettes:

Set up the breading station by setting the buttermilk in a bowl, and combining the crushed corn flakes, garlic powder, salt, pepper and paprika in a shallow dish. In the steps to follow, spoon out, shape, and bread one croquette at a time.

Spoon out enough of the croquette mixture to form a flat oval about 2-1/2” long x 2” wide x 1-1/4” thick. (Before forming the croquette, it’s helpful to compress it in your hands, similar to packing a snowball.)

Dip each croquette into the buttermilk, letting the excess drain, then into the breading mixture. Coat all sides. As each croquette is breaded, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon baking pad. Once all the croquettes are breaded, refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours.

When you're ready to bake the croquettes:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Apply cooking spray to the top and sides of each croquette. After baking for ten minutes, turn each croquette over, spray the other side, and bake until golden (about another 8 – 10 minutes).

While the croquettes are baking, make the buttermilk white sauce as follows:

In a pan, melt the butter substitute.

Add the flour and stir to combine. Cook over a low heat for about 1 minute till a slightly browned roux forms.

Gradually add the buttermilk, stirring constantly, until a thickened sauce forms.

Add the dried parsley, dill, salt, garlic powder and black pepper, and stir till combined. Remove from the heat.

To serve:

Put one or two croquettes on each plate and top with some of the sauce, being careful not to over-sauce the croquettes. Serve with preferred side dishes.

To download a copy of the recipe for Baked Chicken Croquettes with Buttermilk White Sauce, click HERE.

And there you have it: classic diner food in the comfort of your own home.

Please come back next week for another great-tasting recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

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