Saturday, February 1, 2014

Leftover Love - Turkey Soup OR, what to do with the Thanksgiving Carcass

Months ago, at Thanksgiving, we had a huge turkey and it looked like we picked it clean-- but I know better! I also like to use up as much of something I buy that was killed for me to buy it as I can, since I am both cheap and too poor to waste things, AND concerned about the fate of the animals I decide to eat.

Note, though, that if you don't eat animals, you can skip the making-broth-from-bones part and fill the pot with all your veggie ends* and use the resulting vegetable broth instead.

So here's how you do this:

After thanksgiving, take that picked over bird and put it in your biggest pot. Full it with as much water as will fit. You can put in seasonings, bay leaves, garlic, whatever, but note that the more you put in at this end, the less options you have when you go to use it later.

Cover it. Boil that baby. Boil it a lot. Boil it until all the bones de-articulate and the broth gets as golden and delicious as it will get. For this broth, I Cooke it for about eight hours, then let it sit on the stove overnight to cool and sort of steep like meat tea.

When it's cool enough to handle, strain or scoop out everything that isn't broth. Pick through the solids and remove all the meat that's been revealed. I got several pounds, after adding the wings and drumsticks--almost four full ziplock bags full of Hidden Meat revealed by cooking it down! 

When you have your pile of meat, do that--put it all in zippies or in some other container, and freeze it. Then do the same with your broth--scoop it up, package it, and freeze it for later. I got six zippies from it that one bird. Each of those had three or four cups in it, so that's A LOT of broth taking up a lot of space in my freezer... Which is why the next step is to make stew!

The pic above shows the steps I took, but some notes:
- We forgot to buy carrots this round, though they were a key part of the first round.
- All of this made two huge pots of stew for us, but it could have made three reasonable sized ones, or maybe four if less people were eating from it.
- Basically, this is an excuse to use up leftover veggies with your saved broth and stuff.

Here goes:

Chop up half a bag of potatoes
Chop up some onions
Chop up some celery
If you remember carrots, chop big ones or open up a bag of minis
Drain a can of beans and a can of peas
Open a can of tomatoes (I use the fire roasted ones for almost anything) and keep the juice
Gather minced garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, olive oil, poultry seasoning or your favorite fresh herbs**, a few teaspoons or tablespoons of each, to taste
Grab one or two bags of your picked meat and two or three bags of your broth, or the equivalent if you aren't in love with ziplock like I am***

Throw it all in your biggest pot, cover it, and put it on medium until the frozen stuff is no longer frozen, then bring it up to boil on a moderately higher heat and boil until all the veggies are soft. It actually improves if you cool it maybe a half hour or hour longer than you strictly have to, though, so once things get close to done you can lower the heat again and let it simmer happily for ages so long as you keep it covered so it doesn't dry out.

Remember to check seasonings as it cooks and adjust before serving--better under-salted, and more added later than too salty at the start and it getting worse.

This is a totally basic and wildly customizable recipe. The best sort of recipe! You could:
- Add minced greens toward the end
- Serve with rice, cheese and sour cream, maybe some salsa
- Change the beans to mung or adzuki, switch the herbs and olive oil for soy sauce and a lighter oil mixed with a little sesame oil, and have an Asian version. You could even add a little miso at the end, but if you do, remember to under-salt beforehand, because miso is salty and there's already soy sauce there.
- Switch the root veg for parsnips and winter squash, and change the seasoning to rosemary and sage for a winter version
- Add more tomatoes, some little pasta, and basil, and then add summer squash and spinach and have some Italian Summer soup
- Use chicken, or a big ham bone, or a beef bone, and change the whole feel of it; you could even use fish if you like fish stew!
- Thicken it with flour or cornstarch or whatever, and make it heartier

How would you make this your own? Share in the comments!

*The basic veggies for a vegetable broth are onions, celery and carrots, and that alone will be delicious. I also like to add piles of garlic, because I like to add piles of garlic to everything. You can also save leek tops and throw them in, and maybe add a little bit of brassica--the stems from broccoli or cauliflower or cabbage, I'd say--but it'll take over the flavor, so not too much. If you're really fancy, you can throw in sweet or hot peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, a corn cob, bay leaves, whatever. Whatever you throw in gets strained out and goes to the compost anyway!

**All my herbs died and I haven't gotten the new ones going yet, so yup, jarred. This brand's poultry mix is pretty delicious.

***But why wouldn't you be? It's the easiest way to put ANYTHING in the freezer!
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