• Start to Finish: 1 1/2 hours 
  • Servings: 24 croquettes
  • Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate

When thinking of restaurant chain dishes that have left an indelible imprint on the collective American food memory, Howard Johnson’s chicken croquettes spring to mind. Slightly spiced chopped chicken balls enveloped in a crispy crust and served with a side of creamy white gravy for dunking, the HoJo croquettes have all but vanished from the culinary landscape along with the once-ubiquitous namesake restaurants. Based on a recipe from Mama’s Southern Cooking, this is about as close as you can get to that old HoJo favorite. Make some food history of your own by creating these tasty treats in your own kitchen.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and saute the onion, garlic and celery until just soft. Add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the cooked chicken, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper and cayenne and stir over low heat for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. To the chicken mixture, add the milk, beaten egg and two tablespoons of the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly with clean hands.

Chill the mixture for 30 minutes and then roll it up into two dozen rounds the size of ping pong balls.

Mix 1 beaten egg with the half and half. Dip each croquette in the mixture, roll it in the breadcrumbs — pressing the crumbs in firmly — and place them all on a baking sheet.

Let the croquettes rest in the fridge for another 20 minutes while you prepare the gravy.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour little by little, stirring and scraping constantly. Cook and stir until the mixture bubbles and thickens — like a roux — but don’t let it brown. Slowly add the milk and chicken stock, stirring constantly, and cook for 3 minutes or until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cover with wax paper to prevent the top from forming a crust. Set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 inches of oil and gently fry the croquettes until golden brown. The chicken is already cooked so you only have to worry about getting the crust a nice crunch and good color. Drain on brown paper.

Divide the croquettes into four servings. Reheat the gravy, pour it into individual ramekins and serve along with your croquettes– a homage to what was once one of America’s favorite roadside eateries.

  • Substitute panko breadcrumbs for an ever better crunch.
  • Add a little hot pepper sauce or finely minced jalapeno to the mix.
  • Serve with cole slaw or potato salad and ear of corn.
  • For a hearty dinner, serve with a mound of mashed potatoes and gravy.