If you’re like me, when you’re cleaning up after Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey carcass (with plenty of bits of meat still clinging to the bones) starts to look a lot like opportunity. I am loathe to ever throw away any animal bones: you can make too many delectable things with them (well, really, I’ve only ever made stock with the bones, but you can make so many things with the stock that it totally counts).
I’m also well-known for not thinking that turkey sandwiches are the bee’s knees. Given left-over turkey, there are several other things that I’d rather make with it, and one of them is soup! I have such a proclivity to it and The Hubs has such a proclivity for the sandwiches that we have always ended up in turkey-turf-wars about how the leftovers are going to be used. Not being possessed of two ovens but still needing to make several sides while the sacrificial bird is cooking, we grill our turkey so the birds we buy have to be relatively small so that it can fit on our Weber — hence, there’s not enough turkey to go around for both of our needs and strife ensues. This year, I avoided marital turkey-drama by buying two birds. I was so proud of myself for coming up with a solution to the problem, but then I went and shot myself in the foot by discovering turkey pot-pies, creating yet another need for large amounts of turkey. What’s a cook to do? And don’t you dare suggest I buy yet another bird: it’s not that it’s madness, it that there isn’t enough room in our cooler to brine three of them!
So, without any further adieu, I present a recipe for turkey soup, which is something my family has been making ever since I was a wee one. Like most soups, the ingredient list is more of a suggestion than a rule. It’s also slow-cooker friendly, which we found to be very welcome this year, since, well, y’know how on Thanksgiving Friday you don’t want to cook at all? Well, I kinda screwed that one up big-time by experimenting with the pot-pies, so come Saturday we really super-mega didn’t want to cook, but luckily I had slow-cookered up a big batch of this the night before. Victory, “turkey soup” is thy name.
From a family recipe
Makes about 5 quarts
Turkey stock is one of the few absolutes in this recipe and making it couldn’t be easier. Just throw your turkey carcass along with any unwanted bits of meat (like the neck, gizzards, and bits of meat that are still clinging to the bone) in a stock pot with a few aromatics like celery, onions, carrots, peppercorns, and herbs and simmer for 4-24 hours. Cool slightly, strain, chill so the fat separates, and skim the fat.
Three cups water
1 1/2 cup mixed grains, such as hull-less or pearled barley, wild rice, etc. (My favorite is 1 cup barley and 1/2 cup wild rice)
A couple of tablespoons of olive oil
3 carrots, halved or quartered length-wise, then chopped cross-wise into approximately 1/4″ pieces
3 stalks celery (including leaves), chopped cross-wise into approximately 1/4″ pieces
1 onion, diced
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
10 cups turkey stock
1 1/2 pounds leftover turkey meat, shredded (easier when warm) or chopped (easier when cold) into small bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, chopped (or crushed with your hands) and juice reserved
Several sprigs of your favorite poultry herbs (such as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme), tied into a bundle if you want
Salt & pepper to taste
In a saucepan, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the grains, reduce the heat, and simmer until the grains have begun to soften, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat; do not drain liquid.
While the grains are simmering: in a stock-pot or large Dutch oven (at least 7 quarts), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, green beans, and tomato paste and saute until the veg is aromatic and starting to soften.
Pour in the par-cooked grains and their cooking liquid, the turkey stock, turkey meat, corn, tomatoes, and herbs. Simmer until the flavors are blended, 1-2 hours. Season with salt, pepper, and any remaining fresh herbs to taste. Serve, refrigerate, or freeze: the flavors will improve with time.
To make in a 7qt (or greater) slow-cooker: start by par-cooking the grains and sauteeing the first six ingredients until softened (in your appliance’s insert, if it’s stove-top-safe) as instructed in steps 1 and 2. Combine this with the rest of the ingredients in the insert. Cook on low for 8 hours.