Had enough turkey yet?
I have come within a hair’s breadth of tossing everything to liberate myself from the memory of my indiscretions on the fateful fourth Thursday in November. At least I am in good company. But the frugal housewife in me cannot tolerate the waste. So I have removed the meat from the bones, saved some for the last couple of sandwiches, and a bit for soup. The bones are going into stock. Some day. Right now, I am shoving them into the freezer because I made stock on Thanksgiving.
Here’s why. First, we had a very small Thanksgiving. As in, only our very small family of three at the table. It was College Boy’s twenty-first birthday. I could make peace with the small number around the table since I wanted him to myself for a day. To that age group, “coming home” means “sleeping at home.” I take what I can get. He requested a birthday pie. And we had pink champagne (of course.)
I mention this as background to my decision to roast the turkey in two halves as an experiment. Presentation was not so high on the list of priorities that day. Even though I am happily and thoroughly tradition-bound when it comes to my Thanksgiving menu, I am mesmerized by all the cooking advice that proliferates at this time of year. So after reading chef’s tips on cooking a turkey in the New York Times and viewing Tyler Florence on the Today Show, I decided to try the split turkey method. (Note to Tyler: the herbs were messy and did not add much, in my opinion; I think I’ll skip them next time, better for garnish.)
It was a last minute decision. I had to hack the bird in half myself. It felt very un-American, believe me. That left me with the backbone, neck, and gizzards. I had a lot of chicken bones in my freezer, too, so I ended up with a nice big pot of stock by the time the day was over.
P.S. The turkey (12 pounds) was juicy and perfect, not in the least bit dry. I rubbed it with butter, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and added a bit of stock to the bottom of the pan and roasted it at 425 degrees F. I might have basted it once. Of course I used a probe thermometer (set to 160 degrees F.) so I don’t remember how long it took, but I would guess around 2 hours. It was easy to carve, too. So unless I want to bring the bird to the table, I think it is one new experiment that I will repeat. Maybe I’ll leave the hack job to the butcher.
Now that most of the work is done, the soup is a snap. We will eat a little and freeze the rest. It will be even better as a go-to, healthy meal, when the excess of Thanksgiving is far behind.
For the stock:
Place the carcass and all the denuded bones in a large pot. If you happen to have any chicken bones in the freezer, you can add them too. Cover with about 2 inches of cool water and bring to a boil. Let the stock bubble for a few minutes and skim off the foam.
When the foam subsides, add:
1 to 2 sliced onions
3 to 4 carrots, thickly sliced (don’t bother to peel them),
A few stalks of celery, thickly sliced
Parsley and thyme sprigs if you have them
A generous pinch of salt
Simmer very gently for 2 to 4 hours. Strain. Divide among quart freezer containers and let sit at room temperature to cool for about 20 minutes. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, skim off the fat and freeze or use in soup.
Turkey soup with white beans and squash
Feel free to substitute chicken anywhere the recipe says “turkey”
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, cut in 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small peeled and seeded butternut squash (8 ounces) cut in 1/4-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
Salt and pepper
10 cups turkey stock
1 can (14-15 ounces) cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups diced leftover turkey
5 cups (about 4 ounces) baby spinach leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion, celery, squash, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the stock and the beans, bring the soup to a simmer, and cook until the squash is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the turkey and spinach leaves and simmer for another minute or two until the turkey is heated through and the spinach has wilted.