Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HOLIDAY LEFTOVERS - Turkey Soup

Leftover holiday turkey
Just when you think you're done with all that turkey business, along comes the question of what to do with the leftovers.   There are pot pies, stews, casseroles, and sandwiches....croquettes, salads and so on. 

The most common use of leftover turkey, most notably the odd wing, orphan leg and that old Pope's Nose? Soup.  Lovely, warming, wholesome soup. King of comfort food, a dish for any season, there's nothing like a steaming bowl of the stuff to make you feel cozy when ya need it most!

Everybody has their own version of the stuff; some like it creamed, some like it hot and spicy....there are as many variations as there are people in the world; here's just another version to add to the pile.

Broth and veggies
Make sure your stock pot is deep enough for the job, because the very first thing you need to do is boil the carcass. Soup making is not pretty work.  Done right, some parts of the process can be downright yucky!
But done right, you end up with a wonderful soup rather than a flavorless liquid with junk floating around in it.

I usually take the meat off the bone before putting the turkey away after its first serving.  Years ago folks left the cooked meat on the bone, put a damp towel over it and put it in the fridge, but in these days of CSI and forensic science, we've come to know it's not such a good idea. 

Anyway, once done with the dismantling I'm usually dog tired so I wrap the bones in plastic and put all the meat in containers and put everything in the refrigerator until the next morning. 

That's exactly what I did this time, too.  After our Thanksgiving feast, Jack cleared the table while I dissected the remains, then stored it all in the fridge for the next day. I mean, heck!  After three plus days of prepping and cooking, a good night's sleep was in order!  Besides, the L-tryptophan was kicking my butt!


This morning I woke feeling pretty good for someone who'd been on a cooking jag for the previous several days.  While the coffee brewed I began by pulling the bones out of the fridge and putting them in the big stock pot, filled the pot with water and put it on a back burner for a long simmer.
Broth set aside to cool

While that was going on, I chopped veggies and put them aside in covered bowls in the fridge. Then I enjoyed a couple cups of coffee and a piece of Sweet Potato Pie for breakfast....one of my favorite breakfasts!

As the carcass simmered, it filled the house with that great turkey aroma!  Two hours later those bones were cooked and the base broth was done.  I removed the big pieces by hand, reserved the still-useful pieces of meat and threw the bones away.   Then I strained the broth and poured it into a tall storage container and set it aside to cool.

I pulled out the veggies, including the ends which were reserved too, and began the rest of the process. 

I've seen lots of people make soup. Most of the time they just toss everything together with some broth and let it rip.  That's perfectly fine....but I like to go the extra distance for the extra flavor. To me cooking is more than just heating things to a palatable point....it's about textures and flavors and dimensions and finding the best ways to bring it all together.  
Veggie ends browning

First things' first.....seasoning the soup pot.

Wing bits browning
I took the veggie ends and scraps and put them in the pan along with some grape seed oil and let them brown on all sides.  The brown bits that develop in the pan are good sources of flavor. Then I added the wing bits and browned them.
Straining the pan seasoning brew

I added a bit of water and let this simmer for about 20 minutes, then removed the big pieces and poured the liquid through a strainer.  This liquid is dark and concentrated and contains a great deal of the flavor that forms the backbone of this soup.
I shudder to think of all the yumminess that would have been lost by skipping this step! 
"Hard" veggies added

While this cooled, I added the "hard" chopped veggies (carrots, turnips and potatoes) to the still warm stock pot along with some grape seed oil.
I use grape seed oil sometimes because it doesn't add much flavor and is lighter than other oils. 

Skimming fat from broth

 Anyway, as the vegetables browned, I skimmed the base broth made from the carcass.  Because it had cooled, all the fat had risen to the surface and was easy to remove.  What remained behind was lovely and slightly gelatinous.  Perfect.
Skimmed broth

Then I added this broth and the darker reduction made earlier to the still browning vegetables and let it come up to temperature. I added some previously browned and chopped onion, celery and garlic at this point, too. Anything for a bit of taste!

Jack came down the hallway to see what was going on.  "Smells good in here!" he said, licking his lips.  I smiled, turned down the heat and covered the pot so it could simmer for about 35 minutes.

After 35 minutes
When this cooking time was done, I opened the stock pot and smiled.  It looked and smelled great!  The coloring was a rich, golden brown....vegetables done but not mushy.  It was time for the next installment; a hand full of broken up angel hair noodles, soft veggies (mushrooms, cooked peas),  the left over turkey....and, since it was available, stuffing that I rolled into tiny little balls.   

Pan covered loosely to simmer
After tasting and seasoning, a little salt and pepper, a little poultry seasoning and a dash more garlic, I covered the pan loosely and let it simmer for another fifteen minutes.
Mmmmmmm, good!
The object here wasn't so much to cook anything further as to allow the flavors to mingle.  Fifteen minutes is about the maximum simmering time you want to give the soup at this point.  Any longer and the turkey begins to dry out!  Then, after a final tasting and seasoning, you're done!

It's soup!
 Well, that's my version of Turkey Soup...a little complex, but worth the extra effort.
As always, please fee free to share your ideas, memories and recipes.
Enjoy!