Winterfeast leftover soup
I know I promised magic next but I have leftovers to deal with. Besides, in my kitchen especially, cooking is magic. So there.
Despite my essential Scrooginess and cynical attitude toward all things Christmas I do love any opportunity to show off my cooking skills and make a giant mess of my kitchen. In honour of this I have re-dubbed Dec 25 as “Winterfeast.” This is a holiday that can be wholeheartedly embraced by anyone other than dieters. No religious associations, no obligatory gifts, no tacky crap cluttering up the house. Just good friends and family and the delicious smells of things being cooked using far too much butter.
I was dumb enough to leave my dinner shopping til the last minute. Fondly imagining that everyone else in the world has it way more together than me and that I could do my grocery shopping in leisurely peace, I strolled into Safeway at about 1 pm December 24 to find ravening hordes of shoppers desperately swarming around the dwindling supply of turkeys. It was hard even to get near the birds and when I finally did fight my way close enough I realized that there wasn’t a single turkey under 15 pounds in the display. At that point I had only invited 3 people, one of them a 4 year old, to dinner. I considered asking the meat counter guys if they had any smaller turkeys hiding anywhere, but upon getting rammed multiple times by shopping carts I just grabbed the smallest one I saw (6.25 kg $35) and got the hell out of there.
Hmmm, I said to myself, That is one fuckload of turkey. I invited a few more people and decided I would just make soup out of what was left.
There is a lot left.
So, for the edification of my readers, here is my fabulous soup making method which I have been refining for over a decade. It works with chicken too.
Now, first of all it is essential to mention that in order to properly roast any cut of meat you need dry heat and lots of basting. Shrouding the thing in tinfoil to preserve moisture and save effort is not only lazy, it is simply wrong. If you do this you are not roasting your turkey, you are steaming it, relying on water rather than fat to keep the breast from getting dry. What you need is fat, not water. Fat does not evaporate and circulate within the tin foil covering, water does. Water is not flavourful. Fat is. Steaming negatively affects the texture and flavour of your final results, not to mention depriving you of the interactive experience of getting off your ass every 20 minutes or so to baste it. Yes, I said every 20 minutes. It’s easy so just shut up and do it. This will result in a beautifully caramelized, crispy, dark golden brown skin and breast meat that melts in your mouth with a rich flavour. It’s damn good and really, why waste $35 on a bird if you don’t want to put in the effort to make it the best it can be?
Ok, that is my lecture on roasting. Here is how to make soup from the tasty remains of your perfectly roasted turkey. Mine was goddamn delicious, by the way.
Step 1: Debone.
Don’t remove every last bit of meat from the bones, only what will come off in decent sized pieces. Leave lots of nice meaty bits clinging to the bones. Set aside the meat to be chopped up and put in soup later. But make at least one sandwich because turkey sandwiches are delicious.
Step 2: Roast that shit.
Put your turkey carcass back in the roasting pan and chuck it in a preheated 450 oven til everything turns nice and brown, about 30 min. This will give a stronger flavour and nice colour to the stock.
Step 3: Stock.
Whenever I cut veggies for anything I take all the ends you would normally discard and put them in a Ziplock bag in my freezer. Onion skins, carrot tops, celery ends, parsley stems etc. You don’t want to eat them for texture reasons but they have lots of flavour and nutrients and are great for stockmaking because anything you use for making stock gets strained out and discarded anyway.
If you haven’t done this, chop up some carrots, onions and celery. Garlic is optional but makes everything better obviously. After allowing your carcass to cool (hah!) stick it in your stock pot with the veg and fill with water. Don’t worry about using too much water because your stock will reduce as it simmers. You may need to add more water as you go.
It is important to let the carcass cool first because you want all your solids to begin at the same temperature as the water for the best extraction. Put your stock pot on the stove on high and bring to a boil. As soon as it is boiling reduce the heat til there are still bubbles rising slowly, prop the lid so it covers the pot halfway and simmer as long as possible. I usually go for around 8 hours. This is the part where you can more or less ignore it for long periods. Check every now and then to make sure there is at least enough water to cover the bones and add more if not. I usually add my herbs near the end so they don’t get bitter. Thyme, sage, rosemary, tarragon. Yum. throw a little salt in there too, now that you are done reducing and concentrating the stock. And fresh ground pepper.
Step 4: Strain.
Ok, this is very important. DO NOT allow the stock to cool at all before straining. Strain it as soon as you have turned the heat off, otherwise it will taste fishy and weird. Use a wire strainer and strain it into a second stockpot. Use the bowl of a ladle to squish the remaining liquid out of the strainer contents as the best flavours are in the liquid that gets trapped in there. Wait for all the solids to cool and throw them out. They aren’t even good for compost at this point. I usually strain it a second time through cheesecloth to get rid of any sediment.
Step 5: Cool and degrease.
that’s a lot of steps eh? We are almost done.
Let your strained stock cool down to room temp and then refrigerate. When the stock is refrigerator cold all the fat will have solidified at the top and can be easily removed with a slotted spoon. Th stock will probably be gelatinous which is good because gelatin is full of good shit and makes you feel better when you are sick. Plus it is fun to jiggle. Jiggle it! Fun huh? Ah, the rewards of soup making. Gelatinous poultry stock is like bubble wrap for the soul.
Step 6: Reheat and assemble.
Another benefit of cooling your stock is it allows the flavours to blend. Soups always taste better if cooled and reheated. There’s science behind that somewhere but don’t ask me what. I just know it to be true.
Chop up your meat, veg (carrots, celery, parsnips, onions, cabbage, whatever) and toss it in. I like to add wild rice too but I usually cook it separately so it doesn’t hog up all the liquid in the pot. Simmer slowly until veggies are tender, 30-40 min.
Step 7: Eat it!
Have some good seedy bread and a nice fresh salad on the side. Put some in Tupperware and bring it to a friend with a cold. Freeze some and defrost it when YOU have a cold. It’s good.
You can also stop at step 5 and freeze the stock on its own for use in later soups, cooking rice etc. Measure into small Ziplock freezer bags so it stays flat and stacks nicely in the freezer and so you have exact portions ready to go. I usually do 2 cups per bag.
I am going to do this right now!