Making stock of the situation

Leftovers. What to do with them? Thanksgiving seems to be the meal with the most leftover. The turkey itself makes for great sandwiches and stuffing is awesome just heated up. mashed potatoes can be turned into potato pancakes and pie is delicious for breakfast. But what do you do with the leftover carcass? Make stock!

Take the whole left over bird, bones and all and put it into a big pot. I use my stock pot that I steam crabs & lobster in. Take about 8 cups of water or low sodium chicken stock and pour enough to cover the carcass. Then chop up some carrots, celery and onion, some fresh herbs, whole peeled garlic cloves and a bay leaf or 2 and toss in the pot . Salt & pepper to taste and simmer for about 4 hours or more.  When the liquid has developed a rich color,  kill the heat and carefully remove the carcass.  Now comes the icky part. Strain everything through a chinois or a fine mesh strainer and set aside. Take the carcass and carefully and meticulously clean off all the extra meat and reserve in a bowl. You’re going to encounter a lot of gooey skin and fat so work quickly and try not to make a mess.

Turkey Carcass

Diced carrots, celery & onion

Now you need to consider how you want to defat the strained stock. I like to cover the pot and put it my fridge for a few hours to completely cool. The fat will rise to the top and form a gel when cooled and you can skim it all off very quickly and easily. If you don’t want to wait for the pot to completely cool and gelatinized, then return the pot to the stove and bring it back to a nice simmer. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, carefully skim off the fat layer as it rises to the top in a foam like texture. This method can be tedious and take a while but this way you don’t lose time and can continue to proceed towards making the actual soup.

I usually make so much stock that I often freeze half of it for future homemade soups or other dishes that call for stock. Once you have a defatted stock, consider what all you want in the final soup. Diced up leftover turkey is a given but what about veggies and a starch like noodles or rice. I usually opt for simplicity. Small diced onions, carrots and celery for starters. Not the same ones used earlier reducing the carcass though as those will have exhausted most of their flavor and texture from the long simmer. So, cut up some new ones and be more meticulous about it here than before. Dice these in small bite size pieces that will fit on a spoon along with a few other veggies and meat. I also usually slice up a few garlic cloves for additional flavor. Next figure out what kind of starch. I usually opt for a noodle and like to be creative in my selection. Explore the pasta isle of your grocer. There you will find a plethora of pasta shapes and sizes from little rings to elbow and alphabet letters. keep it small in size and consider shapes you don’t often find in soups. Whatever you choose, be sure to cook it first in a separate pot and rinse with cold water and allow to rest. A lot of soup makers simply cook their pasta in the same pot as the simmering soup. Although this produces a very tasty noodle it absorbs a lot of your stock and can actually thicken the soup with the starch it excretes in cooking. Ever notice how your pasta water is cloudy after you cooked spaghetti in it? Thats’ the residual starch and it has no place in your tasty stock you’ve slaved over create so I can’t stress enough the value of cooking your noodles separately.

Pasta varieties

Allow to simmer another 15 minutes or so on low heat and ladle into bowls and enjoy. Soup will stay good in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Actually soup tastes even better a day or so after you make it because the flavors have really had a chance to blend together. Freeze whatever you think you can’t eat in that time. I usually freeze soup in quart sized freezer Ziploc bags. to thaw, simply place the Ziploc in a small pot filled with water and simmer until the soup is completely thawed. Then discard the water from the sauce pot and dump the soup in a reheat. Soup can be frozen for up to six months. Imagine how good it will be some cold February night.


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