There are three phases of a Thanksgiving turkey: the holiday meal, the leftovers, and the soup. How you interact with the turkey in all of its incarnations is largely a matter of tradition. The meal can be tinkered with, but many hold out for immutable traditions — the creamed onions, the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, the cranberry jelly from a can, The leftovers are similarly tradition-bound in many households. Some leave the turkey out for day-long noshing straight from the carcass, while others strip it of its meat so late-night snackers can make sandwiches, either hot with gravy or cold with mayo, stuffing, cranberry sauce and anything that will fit between two slices of bread or inside of a leftover dinner roll. But once the frame has been rendered into stock, there are fewer restrictions: good old-fashioned turkey soup with noodles is nice, but just about any soup pulled from the freezer later in the month is eaten with gusto, especially as the weather turns increasingly wintry.
So how does a heap of bones with scraps of skin and meat turn into a pot of rich stock? Chop several carrots, a couple of large onions and three or four stalks of celery and saute them in olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot until they start to brown. Add a pinch of unrefined sea salt and, if you’d like, a couple of cups of white wine — a perfect use for Thanksgiving dregs, should there be any. Toss in all your bones and add enough water to cover them, along with some fresh herbs: parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, etc. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to allow it to simmer for several hours. Once the stock is done, strain out the bones, vegetables and herbs and what’s left is the base of a great turkey soup.
For the classic soup like Grandma made, you add to the base chunks of the leftover turkey, chopped carrots, celery, onion and turnip, and sweet potato, along with rice or noodles. Boil until tender and serve with some good crusty bread.
The same basic turkey stock can be used in a soup with Asian seasonings.
Asian Turkey Noodle Soup
- 4 oz. rice noodles
- 6 cups turkey stock
- 1⁄2 cup thinly sliced scallions
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 6 coin-sized rounds peeled fresh ginger
- 2 Tbsp. each fish sauce and soy sauce
- 2 cups diced leftover turkey meat
- For topping: fresh bean sprouts, fresh mint or Thai basil leaves, sliced serrano chilis, sesame oil
and lime wedges
Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand about 5 minutes, then drain. Combine stock, scallions, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and soy sauce in large pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover partially, and simmer 10 minutes. Discard ginger, stir in noodles and turkey and simmer until turkey is heated through, about three minutes. Top each serving with bean sprouts, mint or basil leaves, chilis, sesame oil and lime wedges to squeeze over. If yours is a taco-loving family, switch the seasonings and give your soup a Mexican accent.
Chipotle-Tomato Turkey Soup
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with juice
- 4 cups turkey stock
- 2 chipotle chilis in adobo, finely chopped
- 2 cups diced turkey
- 1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1 large avocado, diced
- For toppings: lime wedges, sour cream and tortilla chips
Heat olive oil in a stockpot. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, breaking them up against the side of the pot, along with turkey stock and chipotles. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook until tomatoes begin to break down, about 15 minutes. Add turkey and cilantro and cook until turkey is heated through. Ladle soup into bowls and top with the avocado. Serve with lime wedges, sour cream and tortilla chips.