Monday, July 6, 2009

Chicken eggplant croquettes

Are they still croquettes if they're flat? I'm going to say yes (obviously, otherwise this post would have a different name). Croquette translates to small crunchy thing. There's no specification of a shape there so I think I'm safe.

At the end of my Zuni Café chicken post I left you wondering just what I was going to do with the half a chicken I had left over. I was wondering myself as no good ideas were presenting themselves. Plus I also had an eggplant that I really needed to get around to using.

Without a whole lot of thought as to the end results I peeled, salted and wrung out the eggplant, and then fried it in olive oil along with the leftover chicken skin to add a bit of interest. I let that go for around 15 minutes over a fairly low heat to get it caramelized to a deep brown. When those were done I had gotten into a caramelization mood so I sliced a half an onion thin, lowered the heat under the pan and let them get nice and brown too.

Meanwhile I shredded the cold chicken. When the onions were done I returned the eggplant (minus the crispy chicken skin which I couldn't resist snacking on) and added the chicken along with the leftover au jus sauce I had made from the drippings. I mixed that all together to blend the flavors and heat the chicken through, dumped it all out into a bowl and deglazed the pan with surprisingly tart chardonnay. And finally I chopped up a couple small tomatoes a mixed them in since dishes with chicken and eggplant usually use some tomato too.

So I had this hash sort of stuff. I tried a little as a taco filling, but that didn't really work for me, so I started looking around for some other use. Nothing better presenting itself, I decided to try a fritter.

The mixture was rather chunky so I ran it through the food processor which probably wasn't entirely necessary for a decent fritter, but seemed like a good idea at the time. The result was a paste. For a bit I considered making meatballs, but I knew it was only holding together due to congealed gelatin. Heat it up and it would fall apart. It still needed a binder.

I beat an egg, mixed that in, and then a half cup of flour and a teaspoon of baking powder. The whole mix had only been seasoned with salt and pepper to this point so I had free reign as to how to punch it up now. I seriously considered Moroccan, but settled on a sweet West Indian spice mix that I thought would work better with the caramel flavors I had developed. (I really couldn't taste it in the end version, so I dusted a bit more over top along with a squeeze of lemon.)

That rested for a half hour to hydrate and then it was time to cook. I used a Tablespoon scoop to measure out portions, flattened them out in the pan to make patties and shallow fried them until golden brown and crisp.

It wasn't until I bit into one that I discovered the distinctive creamy interior of a croquette. I also found, unfortunately, that the lovely flavor I had developed in the eggplant was hidden under the fried onion and the pan dripping flavor of the au jus. It wasn't bad, but not quite as good as I hoped. Even if the eggplant doesn't get its due flavor-wise, it does do a great job texturally and with a lot less starch than your average croquette. I do think I'm on to something interesting there. I'd like to try this again with the vegetables sweated instead of browned to rebalance the flavors.


kat said...

A really interesting idea. I wonder if I could get Matt to eat eggplants if I caramelized them...

billjac said...

Caramelized eggplant still tastes like eggplant, so maybe not if it's by itself. But if used as a binder like I did, you could sneak it in.