Augustine’s Chicken Croquettes
Katie Maxwell, Visitor Services Coordinator
While I was originally going to make Indian Pound Cake today, I’ve been meaning to challenge myself with chicken croquettes for a while and I’m feeling ambitious…but mostly I want to eat something deep-fried. You can find the 1890 recipe developed by Peter Augustine, an immensely successful Black caterer on pages 71 and 72 of 35 Receipts from “The Larder Invaded.”
9-10 cups finely chopped chicken meat or 6 cups chopped meat
plus 2 cups bread crumbs
3 cups milk or cream
4 oz. butter
2 tblsp. flour
4 oz. onion, minced
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. mace
Something to keep in mind, 9-10 cups of chicken turns out to be a lot of chicken. I chopped up my leftovers from a whole chicken that I roasted last night and when that was not nearly sufficient, I cooked up a bunch of emergency chicken thighs and managed to just barely reach 6 cups of finely chopped chicken. Therefore, I will be supplementing with the suggested breadcrumbs, specifically panko. I’m not sure panko is historically accurate but after continually buying breadcrumbs while not realizing I already had breadcrumbs and ending up with three containers of panko breadcrumbs, I’m ready to just use what I have.
Put into a saucepan 1 ½ pts. of milk or cream (I used milk), when hot stir into it, ¼ lb. of butter and 2 tablespoonfuls of flour, rubbed together and well mixed with some of the milk,
The recipe didn’t specify the temperature of the butter, so I used room temperature butter and managed to get a pretty smooth mixture. It took some extra whisking to get the ladleful of hot milk and butter smooth though.
A good way to tell if your milk is hot but not boiling is to check for little bubbles around the edge.
¼ of an onion chopped fine,
Dr. Weaver listed 4 oz. of minced onion, so that is what I used. It ended up being about half a medium-ish yellow onion. By the time I got my onion minced, I had to wear swim goggles to stop my eyes from watering.
Boil until it thickens,
I’m using the ‘coat the back of the spoon’ method to check if the sauce is thickened.
then stir in the chicken, which has been chopped very fine, and well seasoned with salt, cayenne, and mace—
I think I’m supposed to mix the seasonings with the chicken before adding to the sauce.
mix well—cool the mixture,
I spread it into a casserole dish to help it cool down faster… and also took the liberty of tasting a spoonful. So far so good!
form into, shapes, roll in crumbs, and the yolk of an egg, and fry.
Dr. Weaver has added his additional notes to Mr. Augustine’s recipe, recommending that if the croquettes are rolled on a surface with cracker crumbs, the egg yolk will not be needed.
I tried both methods, and they both worked, though the egg-yolk version ended up a little larger. However, that one croquette used almost an entire egg yolk, so I decided not to donate the rest of the eggs in my refrigerator to the cause.
Mr. Augustine states that a 5 ½ lb chicken will make 12 croquettes, and Dr. Weaver says the recipe should make 32 two-ounce croquettes.
I ended up with 30, and I couldn’t find a 5 ½ lb bird in any case.
It’s finally time to fry, and my first three croquettes promptly fall apart. Don’t worry I still ate them. I do some more experimenting and somewhat burn the next three. Eventually, it seems like three minutes per three croquettes in 340°F canola oil mostly works.
These ones were the prettiest. So after all of that fussing with oil and breadcrumbs, is this recipe worth it?
Yes. Yes it is. They are perfectly seasoned and crispy, while being creamy inside. Even the croquettes that burnt or fell apart were delicious.
Next time, Indian Pound Cake, I promise.