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)
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
- Chop the garlic and the shallot and fry in a little oil until transparent.
- 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.
- Add the pine nuts after the grinding process, you want them whole.
- 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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Heat oil in a deep fryer or a saucepan. Test that the oil is good and hot.
- 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.
- 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!