Turning that turkey carcass into a really good soup (no use making a really mediocre soup, is there?) is a two step process. Most folks just toss everything into a pot with water, and simmer it all together until it is soup. By the time the broth is flavored, the meat and vegetables are washed out. It is much better to make a broth first, and then turn that into your soup du jour. This minestrone is one of my very favorites.
Makes 8 to 12 servings
•Even if you don’t want to turn the turkey carcass into a soup, make the soup base anyway and freeze to substitute for chicken broth in everyday recipes.
•Trim all edible meat from the turkey carcass. Cooked turkey should be added to the finished soup just before serving to heat through. If overcooked, it will be flavorless and tough.
•If there are bits of stuffing in the carcass crevices, leave them alone--the bread will dissolve into the broth and thicken it slightly. If the stuffing includes flavors that would not compliment the broth (such as fruit or nuts), rinse the stuffing off the carcass under cold running water.
•The carcass should be chopped into large pieces (3 inches square or so), which helps the bones release more flavor into the broth. Also, it take too much water to cover a whole carcass, resulting in a weak, watery broth. A heavy cleaver works best, but if you don’t have one, use your hands to break up the carcass at the joint and thin-boned areas into manageable pieces. Add any extraneous (drumstick or thigh) bones and skin to the pot, too.
•Sautéing the vegetables releases their flavor. In order to let the turkey come through, don't use too many vegetables for the soup base.
•If you have any leftover turkey stock from your Thanksgiving turkey, use it in place of some of the water. Otherwise, if the flavor is weak, do whatcha gotta do, and add chicken broth or even bouillon cubes to give the broth a boost.
•Allow the broth to come to a simmer and skim off the foam before adding the seasonings. If you add the seasonings at the beginning, they’ll float to the top and be skimmed off with the foam.
•While a stock is unsalted because it is going to be used in sauces that may be reduced, a soup broth base should be salted. Don’t be afraid to add enough salt--it makes the difference between a well-flavored soup and a bland one.
•The carcass from a brined turkey could make salty soup. Take great care when seasoning the soup. Frankly, I've never made this with grilled or deep-fried turkey carcasses, but I imagine they would bring their flavor to the broth, which may or may not be good.
•Leftover gravy will thicken and enhance the color and flavor of any soup. Stir cold gravy into the soup (not the soup base) to taste during the last 10 minutes of simmering. Again, I am talking about good ol' plain turkey gravy, so if yours has unusual seasonings (such as my Dijon and Shallot Gravy), just skip it and save it for your hot sandwiches.
•If you wish, add 1/3 cup elbow macaroni or ditalini to the minestrone during the last 15 minutes of simmering. Be careful about adding too much macaroni, noodles, or rice to the soup, as it soaks up the broth like a sponge, and before you know it, the soup is too thick.
Friday Turkey Soup Base
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium celery rib with leaves, chopped
1 turkey carcass, chopped into large pieces
4 parsley sprigs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed peppercorns
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium celery ribs with leaves, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups packed finely shredded kale (about 10 ounces)
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
6 cups Friday Turkey Soup Base
1 cup red or white wine, such as Zinfandel or Pinot Grigio
4 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces
One 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. To make the soup base, in a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey carcass. Pour in enough cold water (about 3 quarts) to cover the carcass by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the parsley, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
2. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, adding more water as needed to keep the carcass covered, until the broth is well flavored, at least 2 and up to 4 hours.
3. Place a colander over a large bowl or pot. Pour the soup base through the colander, and discard the solids. Let stand for 5 minutes, then skim any clear fat from the surface. (The soup base can be frozen for up to 3 months. Cool completely, then store in airtight containers.) Add enough water to make 2 quarts soup base. Or, return to the pot and boil over high heat until reduced to 2 quarts.
4. In a Dutch oven or flameproof casserole, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the kale and cover. Cook until the kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, and red pepper flakes.
5. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the turkey soup base and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover. Simmer for 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, add the turkey and beans to heat through. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Ladle into soup bowls and serve hot, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and drizzled with additional olive oil. (The soup can be frozen for up to 3 months. Cool completely and store in airtight containers.)