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Turkey Soup For The Soul
It was the great trifecta of my childhood: Thanksgiving-My Grandmother-Turkey Soup.
In the early years of my childhood, before we started spending Thanksgiving with friends, turkey soup was an anticipated part of the holiday. The other expectations were turkey re-heated on the stove in a pan with gravy or Turkey Tetrazzini. Thankfully, I think we only had Turkey Tetrazzini once. In the days before microwave ovens, there were fewer options for warming up the leftovers, so my grandmother’s turkey soup was easily the favorite option for leftover meat.
One of the things I like about turkey soup is the smell the broth sends through the house–sweeter than chicken stock. I also like it because just about anything can go into it for the sake of flavor: bones, skin, stuffing, gravy, and a myriad of vegetables or whatever happens to be in the refrigerator. There’s flexibility on timing too. My father likes to make his the day after Thanksgiving, I waited until Saturday, and I have a friend who freezes her turkey carcass and then makes turkey soup during the first snowfall of winter.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this recipe. A 20-pound turkey carcass takes up a lot more room in a stock pot than a 7-pound chicken so the yield of stock is a lot more than from a typical chicken. I got lucky and found a 2-quart stock pot in my basement, a gift from my mother-in-law years ago, but if you don’t have that, then the carcass might need to be cut up in order to fit into the largest pot you have. In the end, I used about 14 cups of stock so this was a good thing, but the straining process seemed to go on and on. While this is a day-long event, it’s not as though one needs to stand over the stove all day, just don’t have a plan for a manicure in the middle of it.
If you’ve never been sure of what to do with leftovers from your turkey, or have been afraid to try making your own stock, this is a really easy recipe and a great way to spend a cold late fall day in the kitchen. It also made for a simple dinner for the family and that’s always a good thing.
For the Stock:
1 turkey carcass with whatever leftover bits of meat and skin are on it
1-2 yellow onions cut into quarters
4-5 carrots unpeeled, ends trimmed and cut in half
4-5 celery stalks cut in half, green leaves included
1 large spoonful of leftover gravy
2-4 sprigs of any fresh herbs you have (I used rosemary)
For the Soup:
1-2 tablespoons avocado oil
2 carrots, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups (or as much as you want) leftover turkey meat
1 cup cut spaghetti (or rice or small shaped pasta)
14 cups turkey stock
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Stock:
Place all ingredients for the stock in a large stock pot, Dutch oven or any really large pot you have.
Fill with water to cover everything. The pot will be very heavy.
Cover and heat stock ingredients to boiling. Once boiling, lower temperature on stove to medium low and keep at a rolling simmer for 2 1/2 hours.
Turn off heat and let the pot cool so you can safely move it to a counter top and handle the items inside without burning yourself. I left mine for about 45 minutes.
When cool, it’s time to discard the large solids and then strain the stock. The easiest way to do this is to remove the largest pieces from the carcass and the largest vegetables first just to get them out of the way.
Next, place a hand-held strainer over the top of a bowl or even a large soup pot. For the first round of straining, the goal is to just remove the smaller pieces of stock items from the broth. By ladle-ful or measuring cup (I have a large 4-cup measuring cup that ended up being faster and more useful) pour the liquid from the stock pot through the strainer into the larger container. If you really want to avoid small pieces of floating stuff, then repeat this again with a paper towel on top of the strainer. It’s a longer process, but does produce a clearer stock.
When the straining is done, set aside the stock you need for the soup if you plan to make it the same day. Any leftover stock, or if you plan to make the soup later, should be placed in the refrigerator so that the fat can separate itself from the rest of the stock. Once that happens, clear the fat from the top of the stock before using.
For the Soup:
In a large pot, sauté the onion, carrot, and celery in the oil. (This doesn’t have to be avocado oil, I just like using it for high-heat cooking).
When the fresh vegetables are soft, add salt and pepper for taste and cook for another minute.
Add the frozen corn and peas, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the turkey stock, turkey pieces, and noodles.
Let your soup simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the noodles are soft.
Optional: It doesn’t show in the pictures, but we had some fun with carrots and zucchini that I had run through a spiralizer. It’s a fun way to add additional vegetables to the soup and the kids had fun creating the curly shapes.
Notes from my experience:
This is a full day event, but totally worth it. My kids loved the soup and it did make for a really easy dinner.
I served it with corn muffins, which seemed to compliment the soup flavors really well.
As the soup cooks, the noodles will take up more and more of the liquid. I started with 10 cups and kept track of the additional cups I had to add while cooking.
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