As with many people’s Thanksgivings, ours was small. Just my daughter, who’s been with me throughout the pandemic; my son, who as a graduate student doing school remotely has essentially been quarantined in his apartment in Philadelphia since August; and their dad, my ex-husband.
Maybe you remember Thanksgiving Day. It seems like last week, but it also seems like four years ago. It was a warm day; we had windows open.
I had an organic free-range turkey, one I’d gotten at North Tisbury Farm Market. The smallest size I was able to get was “12 to 15 pounds,” and ours was on the 15-pound end of the range.
I’m not a huge turkey fan, but I eagerly anticipated this one: I brined it for a few hours in the fridge with a dry rub of kosher salt, lemon zest and olive oil, and a few other things — well, more than a few: minced garlic and the classic four (all fresh/minced) parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (now you have that song in your head, don’t you?). And sugar.
Somehow, I managed to cook the turkey perfectly. I’d put it in a 450° oven for the first 15 minutes, then turned it down to 375 for a couple hours. Honestly, it might be one of the most beautiful things I’d ever looked at — brown and crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Just like turkeys are supposed to be, but very often (at least in my kitchen) are not.
We had a lot of leftovers. After sending what seemed like half the turkey home with my ex, we still had a lot of leftovers. My son was in charge of figuring out how to store all this. Plenty of meat for sandwiches over the next few days; we finally wrapped up the carcass, which still had a lot of meat on it, and stuck it in the freezer.
I’ve been making soups since last spring, and a friend had shared his recipe for bone broth. He lives in New York, and had a weekly routine of making lots of chicken broth, then delivering it on his bike to frontline workers and homeless shelters. I’d made some soup with some of the bone broth from his recipe, and quickly realized all that work to make the stock was worth it.
I figured maybe I could make a turkey bone broth. For those of you who haven’t done this, it basically means stripping off most of the leftover meat and cooking the bones on a rack in a 450° oven. Meanwhile, you cook onions, carrots, and celery in a good, heavy pot. Then pour in a lot of water (and in the case of my friend’s stock, at least a cup of white wine as well), add the bones to the mix, and simmer it for hours.
This is what I figured I’d do with the turkey.
A couple weeks ago, it felt like soup weather, so I thought I’d take the carcass out of the freezer, make some bone broth from it, then make some soup.
Seems like a lot of steps, I thought. Many, many hours for the broth, then a bunch of time for the soup. Like a two-day ordeal, and it was already Sunday.
There must be a way to do this in one step, right? And so I found “turkey carcass soup” on the Allrecipes site. This recipe contains potatoes, and since I knew I’d want to freeze some of this, I left the potatoes out; the barley provided enough structure.
My daughter Hallie wasn’t keen on the name, saying it sounded basically like “roadkill soup.” (I thought her alternative, “Turkey Corpse,” was no better). But she did offer to make cheddar biscuits to accompany the soup. Hallie works at Mocha Mott’s, and will often bring home their exquisite cheddar biscuits. This soup day, she had not brought biscuits, but figured she could recreate the recipe. Which she did. But did not write down.
I am sorry to say to you that I did not ask her in time to once again recreate that recipe for this column, so if you want cheddar biscuits with your soup, you will need to call Mocha Mott’s in V.H. and see if they have any. Or take any biscuit base recipe and add half a teaspoon of garlic powder, a pinch of truffle salt, and three cups of grated cheddar. It’s all worth it — I ate the soup for lunch five days in a row, and felt very proud of myself.
So, here’s turkey carcass soup. And here’s the link to the recipe online: bit.ly/turkey-carcass.
Turkey Carcass Soup
1 turkey carcass
4 quarts water
6 small potatoes, diced
4 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
1½ cups shredded cabbage
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped (I might leave these out next time)
½ cup uncooked barley
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf
¼tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
¼tsp. poultry seasoning
1 pinch dried thyme
Place the turkey carcass in a large soup pot or stockpot and pour in the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook the turkey frame until the remaining meat falls off the bones, about 1 hour. Remove the turkey carcass, and remove and chop any remaining turkey meat.
Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a clean soup pot. Add the chopped turkey to the strained broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and stir in the potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, cabbage, tomatoes, barley, Worcestershire sauce, salt, parsley, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, paprika, poultry seasoning, and thyme. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 1 more hour. Remove bay leaf before serving.