I'll bet a lot of you are going to have a turkey carcass hanging around on Thursday. But don't throw it away without a second thought. After the bird gets picked over, it still has something more to offer -- deeply flavored stock that can be turned into a warm, comforting turkey soup.
After I roasted a turkey and had Jeff carve it this past weekend, I took the carcass, neck, and thighs (for extra meat for the soup) and used them to make turkey stock. It doesn't take much time at all to get the stock going, and once it's going, all it needs is time and some occasional skimming. I prepped all the ingredients I'd need for the stock while the turkey roasted, so once the turkey was carved I could just throw everything in the pot.
After the stock had simmered for 4 hours, I strained it and then picked through the bones, salvaging any of the moist flavorful dark meat for the soup. I also picked over the wings, which I hadn't put in the stock, and added their meat to the pile. I had prepped all the ingredients for my soup at the same time that I had prepped the stock ingredients, so it was super easy to throw the soup together too.
If you'll have a free burner after Thanksgiving dinner has been made, you can start your stock simmering as soon as you've carved the turkey (as long as you prep the other ingredients in advance too). Before you head to bed on Thanksgiving night, your soup will be done, and you can eat it all week long in addition to your Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, or divide it among freezer bags and save it for when the next turkey craving strikes.
Turkey Stock (adapted from Cook's Illustrated, November 2000)
Carcass, neck, and thighs from 12- to 14-pound turkey
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 cups dry white wine
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs fresh parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Bring turkey carcass, neck, thighs, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, wine, bay leaf, and 4 1/2 quarts water to a boil in a large stockpot set over medium-high heat. Skim any fat or foam that comes to the surface of the stock.
Reduce heat to low and simmer stock, uncovered, for 2 hours, skimming when needed.
Add parsley and thyme, and simmer stock for another 2 hours.
Pour stock through strainer set over large bowl.
Cool stock for about 20 minutes, and skim any fat from its surface.
Use entire batch of stock in soup recipe below.
Turkey Noodle Soup (adapted from Cook's Illustrated, November 2000)
1 tablespoon reserved fat from turkey drippings or butter
1 onion, chopped fine
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 celery rib, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Turkey stock (from above)
Reserved turkey meat (from above, plus additional from turkey leftovers if desired)
Egg noodles, prepared according to package directions
In a large stockpot set over medium-high heat, melt reserved fat from turkey drippings (or butter).
Add onions, carrots, celery, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and sauté until vegetables are just softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in turkey stock, and cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in reserved turkey meat, and simmer 5 minutes to warm.
Serve soup spooned over prepared egg noodles and seasoned with salt and pepper.
I truly enjoyed this soup and am so excited that I have three bags of it in the freezer for future dinners.
I never listen to recipes when they say to cook the noodles in the soup because the noodles are apt to get soggy. Instead, I always make a batch of noodles on the side and simply spoon the soup over the noodles (something I learned from my mom). This way you're sure to have tender, but not mushy, noodles in every bowl. I didn't specify an amount of pasta above, so you can just make however much you'll need for however many people you're feeding.
I doubled the amount of carrots the recipe called for, and I still don't think there were enough, so next time I would probably use 6 carrots, and I'd amp up the amount of celery too. While the recipe doesn't say to sauté the vegetables first, my dad told me my soup would have more flavor if I sautéed them in some of the fat I had scooped off the turkey drippings before I made my turkey gravy, so I tried that. I can't exactly compare my soup to the original since I didn't make the original, but I know I ended up with a really delicious, flavorful soup, so I think it was a good move.
Do you ever make your own turkey stock or soup?