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One French word: poulet, a French recipe : croquettes de poulet maison

Poulet=young chicken, masculine noun (un poulet, le poulet, les poulets), pronounced poo-lay

There are a multitude of words in French for different types of chicken. Une poule is a hen. Usually an old laying hen, best boiled and served as poule au pot, or poule au riz.  Un coq is a cockerel. Un poussin is a chick. Un chapon is a capon. Une poularde is a young female bird that has been fattened for the table.

Then you have the different colours: white ones, yellow ones. Grain fed, free range, organic, etc. I personally won’t eat battery produced chickens, but they don’t necessarily have to be organic.

Poulet is also a slang word for the police (la police) = cop. Another French slang word for cop is flic.

A talent much appreciated in a cook is the art of using up leftovers (l’art d’accommoder les restes). It has been the subject of a book in its own right. My recipe for today uses leftover roast chicken.

Croquettes de poulet maison (home made chicken nuggets – use fresh chicken if you do not have leftovers)

Croquettes de poulet

For 4 people you will need:

  • The equivalent in leftover chicken meat of two breasts, although the dark meat is more moist
  • One quantity of sauce béchamel (see recipe below)
  • One quantity of batter (pâte à frire) (see recipe below)
  • a clove of garlic
  • one or two shallots
  • some parsley
  • a handful of pine nuts (pignons de pin) (optional, but they do add interest and crunch)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • flour to roll the croquettes in
  • oil for frying



  1. Chop the garlic and the shallot and fry in a little oil until transparent.
  2. Take the meat off the carcass, chop into chunks, pop in the food processor with the cooked garlic and shallot, parsley and a spoonful of the jellied juice left under your roast chicken in the dish. Add salt and pepper at this stage. Do not grind too finely, you do not want a paste, you need texture.
  3. Add the pine nuts after the grinding process, you want them whole.
  4. Make a quantity of sauce béchamel (now this is just white sauce, but that sounds like something we got at boarding school, béchamel sounds classier):
  5. Warm 1/8 litre milk in a saucepan or microwave. In another, non stick saucepan, put 2tbs flour and 1tbs butter. Heat to melt the butter and stir vigorously into the flour, using a wooden spoon. Leave the mixture obtained to cook for a minute. Add the milk gradually, beating with the wooden spoon. When you have used up all the milk, add a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Change to a whisk that won’t damage your non-stick pan and beat to a very smooth creamy paste with no lumps. It should be thick. If it is too thick, add a little milk. Let it bubble for a minute and remove from the heat. This mixture is going to bind your chopped chicken.
  6. In a bowl, mix this sauce with the mixture from the food processor. NOTE: if you don’t want to do this last stage (making béchamel), you can bind the mixture with a small egg yolk. It will be less creamy but perfectly acceptable.
  7. Make a quantity of batter: 3 tbs flour –  1 tbs cornflour – salt – pepper – beer (just any old can of beer, but fresh and frothy). Add the salt and pepper to the flour and cornflour, add the beer gradually, stirring until you arrive at the consistency you require (fairly thick). Do not stir too vigorously or you will defeat the object of the beer – that is the bubbles. It is the gas that makes your batter light and crispy. Dip a spoon into the mixture and let the batter drip off. It should coat thoroughly. If it drips off too quickly, add a little more flour. You can flavour this batter with herbs, spices, curry or turmeric for instance if you wish. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes. Any left over batter can be stored, covered,  in the fridge and used the next day. NOTE: you can also miss out this stage, and just roll your balls of chicken in seasoned flour. This makes crunchy morsels, but not as crispy and delicious as the battered ones. But we’re maybe getting a bit lazy here? If you do, just roll in flour, fry the nuggets in a frying pan, not a deep fryer.
  8. Form walnut-sized lumps of chicken mixture into little balls, rolling them between wet palms (they don’t stick that way), and then in flour. Place on a plate as you do them.
  9. Heat oil in a deep fryer or a saucepan. Test that the oil is good and hot.
  10. Dunk the balls into the batter, allow excess to drip off, and fry half a dozen at a time for a couple of minutes in all. Turn them over at half time.
  11. Remove with a slotted spoon to a serving dish covered with a layer of kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven while you cook the whole batch. They will stay crispy with this batter.

NOTE that if you are using raw chicken, you must first cook the mixture before rolling into balls. Always wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw chicken.

Serve with a green salad.  (Or chips if you are not trying to lose weight.) Much nicer than industrial type nuggets!

Bon appétit.


About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

11 responses »

  1. This recipe looks scrumptious. I knew the French word, poule, but did not know any of the others, except Coq au vin, which I made recently. Is a coq then a male chicken, a rooster? Hmmm….I feel rather dumb about this.

    • Yes that’s right, rooster, I put cockerel, forgetting the Americans call them roosters! Back to the farmyard: a lot of people think that a hen needs a “rooster”, a male, to lay eggs. No, no. She can lay all her life without ever seeing a male. But her eggs will not be fertilized and no chicks will hatch. To get chicks, you have to put up with the noise and agressiveness of a rooster. Science lesson over for today.

  2. Another yummy recipe to try. This is an interesting exercise – please keep going….

    • I count on keeping going. But it is time consuming. Everything photographed (except so far the galette des rois) has been cooked and eaten by me. So I have to do presentable cooking each day, just for me since I live alone most of the time. Fun though… glad it’s amusing someone else!

  3. I love chicken and strangely, I think “poulet” is one of the most beautiful words in the French language. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. I know about fertilized and unfertilized eggs!!! But I wonder do roosters taste the same as hens????

    • No. Stronger (a bit gamey), tougher. Much larger portions.

      • I wonder why they call it coq au vin, then in the United States, because they always use hens. Do they use roosters in France?

        • Well of course you should do. But there usually aren’t enough roosters to go around. A rooster is a fully adult male, whereas a chicken, the poulet in my recipe, is juvenile and tender. But when you do have to get rid of a rooster, either because you have several or because he’s just getting too dangerous, then it’s obviously a feast day! It’s very difficult to find an “oven ready” rooster outside the farmyard, you don’t find them in stores.

  5. Pingback: Day 12 – a new French word, a new French recipe: pain | One French Word

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