Turkey croquettes can transform your Thanksgiving leftovers
Here's a sobering thought as we all look forward to the bounty of Thanksgiving dinner: According to the subtitle of a study first published in 2012 and updated in 2017 by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, "America is losing up to 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill."
The largest part of food waste happens at home, with an average of 238 pounds of food per person being tossed out every year.
On a helpful, hopeful note, the report also includes smart suggestions consumers can follow to reduce home food waste. These include shopping wisely; understanding sell-by, use-by, and best-by dates on packaged products; decluttering and organizing refrigerators, freezers and pantries; freezing properly packaged foods for longer storage; sharing food with friends and family; and even recycling scraps by composting them or feeding them to backyard chickens.
The suggestion I like the most, though, is simply to save and reuse leftovers. Some of the most flavorful dishes I know start with good leftovers. If you get into the habit of reutilizing them from your home-cooked meals (or food you take home from restaurants), you'll do your part toward combatting a food waste crisis.
And what wonderful opportunities will await you the morning after Thanksgiving. Leftover turkey and roast vegetables can be diced and fried in a cast-iron skillet to make a succulent hash. The turkey carcass and some fresh aromatic vegetables and herbs can be simmered to make broth or soup. Sandwiches and salads will be natural bonuses from the roast, too.
But maybe you want to do something even more creative. With that in mind, I'm happy to share with you a traditional recipe for leftover turkey (or ham, beef, pork or chicken, for that matter) from Aram Mardigian, executive chef at my Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey: turkey croquettes.
Croquettes get their name from the French word croquer, meaning "to crunch," a perfect description of the pleasing results that come from how they're formed and cooked. The main ingredient, in this case leftover turkey, is minced and mixed with seasonings -- feel free to vary them as you like -- and a creamy sauce made by thickening stock with a little flour and butter roux. Once cooled, the mixture is shaped into balls, coated with eggs and breadcrumbs, and fried until heated through and crunchy golden brown.
You can serve them with gravy or even alternatives like your favorite tomato sauce or good-quality bottled chutney, along with some rice or mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.
I hope you'll give this comfortingly old-fashioned recipe a try -- and do your own part in combatting post-holiday food waste!