Through the Kitchen Window

For some, Thanksgiving is already a distant memory; for others, it’s a long anticipated, not too far off reality on the horizon. Whichever set you belong to, I think we can agree that, though Thanksgiving dinner is definitely something to look forward to, Thanksgiving leftovers are the REAL treasure behind the holiday!!!

In Canada, we celebrate ours the second Monday of October. Because of work the next day and other petty inconveniences, we had our dinner on Sunday. A twenty seven pound bird replete with my famous stuffing, gravy, a ten pound ham, mashed taters, green beans, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms AND Yorkshire puddings. And later -- MUCH later -- there was dessert!!!

Whenever you celebrate it, I’m sure you find, as we do, that it always seems to turn into an exercise in TOO much. But those leftovers are soooo yummy!!! Everyone goes home with their own little care package to tide them over the next couple of days.

And I make plans for the rest. One of my family’s favourite things is my turkey soup.

First thing to do is completely, though not too carefully, debone what’s left of the meat on the bird. I like to leave some good bits of turkey on the carcass because they become the basis for my turkey soup. Take out your BIGGEST stock pot, and as you go about removing the meat from the carcass, bones and bits should be dropped into the pot. And I DO mean bits. Anything that you wouldn’t use in a sandwich; all the bits a detritus that happens; it ALL goes into that stock pot. Since for me, it’s usually this same pot that I do my potatoes in (we boil up ten pounds to mash for our crew) I just use it without rinsing it out. It’s important to note here that I save my potato cooking water too. AND any other water I’ve cooked vegetables in, this year I did the asparagus and cauliflower in the same water so I saved that as well. It’s chock full of flavor and goodness!!! You may find you need to break up the carcass so that it fits well in the pot and then just pour all that reserved cooking water over it. Don’t worry if the carcass pretty well fills the pot. That’s ok. Once you’ve poured the vegetable cooking water into the pot, top it up with fresh water if you need to till the pot is filled to about half an inch from the rim. It will cook down, trust me.

Bring it up to the boil, skim any foamy scum that comes up (you shouldn’t really get too much) and then start adding your vegetables for extra flavor. In my freezer I have a large container full of various freezer bags. Anytime I’m trimming vegetables, I bag the trimmings and put them into that container, for later. When I want to make a stock, all I need is the meat, the vegetables are ready.

After Thanksgiving dinner, I checked my container to see what I had, and tossed things into the stock pot as I came across them. There were asparagus ends, cauliflower and broccoli stems, celery tops, mushroom stems and trimmings, garlic scapes from my last trip to the farmer’s market and a whole bag full of shredded carrot, celery and red pepper that was leftover from a late summer pasta salad. There were even a couple of tomatoes that I’d tossed in there to save them from going mushy before we could use them. They all went in to add flavor to my stock. From my root vegetable bin, I grabbed a red onion and a couple of shallots and I was done.

At this point you may find that you’re close to overflow, but you’ll be fine. Sprinkle half a tablespoon of salt, a couple of tablespoons of whole peppercorns over it all, stir it carefully and let it come to a boil. Once it’s at a boil, turn it down enough to keep it at just a simmer, put the lid on and leave it for an hour.

After that first hour, taste it, adjust for salt if needed and add a handful of Italian parsley and a couple of bay leaves. If you have one and are so inclined, you could even add a small Tabasco pepper at this point. (If you do though, I would recommend pulling it back out again after it’s simmered in the pot for about an hour or so. It’s not a good idea to leave it in for the full cooking time. ) Stir it all carefully, put the lid back on and at this point, turn it down one more notch and leave it.

I let it simmer on the back of the stove all night, because I usually start mine right after dinner is done.

At about 5:30am I’ll turn it off and let it cool. Once cool, which usually takes a couple of hours, strain out the stock and refrigerate it. Then clean that carcass of every last speck of meat that was intentionally left on it. It’s a good idea, at this point, to shred the turkey as you debone it. Once that’s done, you’re ready to “build” your turkey soup. And it’s so easy!

First, set a pot on the stove with water to come to a boil, and cook your noodles or rice. Then, while that’s cooking, remove the stock from the fridge. You’ll see that the fat has congealed on top of it and will be easily removed. When you’ve done that, and the noodles or rice are ready, drain them and then return them to the pot. Stir in the shredded turkey and then add in the stock. I usually put in enough stock to come to about three inches above the level of the noodles and meat. I like a soupy soup. But use your own preferences.

Gently reheat the soup on medium until it’s piping hot, but taking care not to let it actually boil again.

Serve with a nice salad and some crusty bread. We like to sprinkle a bit of parmiggiano on our soup too.

I promise you, they will love you after one taste!!!