I'm hungry. I'm cheap. Turkeys and the oil to fry them in aren't. What do you do when the turkey's done and you're broke? Don't trash it - Make some soup!
Now, this is no secret. People have been recycling/upcycling their picked-over bird skeletons into delicious soup for a long time. I thought I'd document my first try for your edification and knowledge (or shear entertainment at my lack of cooking intuition). Our turkey was fried, but this works regardless of your initial cooking method. This recipe is also dairy and soy free, if that's important to you.
- Turkey Carcass
- 1 Medium Onion
- 2 Carrots or about a half pound (I used baby carrots)
- 2-3 stalks of celery
- 1lb dry or fresh pasta (I had macaroni elbows on hand - go crazy!)
*Our turkey was injected with chicken broth, salt, pepper, and melted butter(soy free, dairy free), so we added some of the leftover broth to the soup as well. Throw in more of whatever you flavored the turkey with originally to bring that flavor back out!
Step 1: Break and Boil
Start by taking your turkey cadaver and breaking it into manageable pieces. We'd done most of this in the initial carving, but to fit it all in the pot, I broke it down a little more. I crammed all the pieces of turkey skeleton into my crock pot, covered mostly with water, mashed down some more, then covered and set to high.
You could do this step in a stock pot, which would allow it to boil, but I didn't. You could also set it to low and let it cook longer. I didn't have much trouble scraping the remaining meat from bone, but it might've been easier if I'd boiled. Weigh in down in the comments section!
Step 2: Chop Chop
While the turkey is in it's crockpot bath, I like to use that idle time to chop the veggies. I top and tail the onion, then peal the outer layers by the newly-exposed edges, then split it in half and chop finely with a grid pattern. After rinsing the celery, I break off the tops and bottoms, grasp the bunch together, and chop all the stalks at the same time. I chop several baby carrots at a time. Using the baby carrots saves me the trouble of peeling, but I mostly used them because I had them on hand.
Step 3: Pick Apart
After an hour or so (no science going on here!), I placed a mesh colander inside a large mixing bowl and began fishing out the turkey parts with a large fork. The mesh will catch all the meat and bones while the broth/water is collected below. I separated the meat from bone by hand, placing the meat into the mixing bowl and discarding the bone and fat into the bag I'd saved the carcass in previously. The process here is much like pulling pork for barbecue, but in smaller pieces. Once all the large chunks were processed, I used a ladle to strain the remaining liquid through the mesh and pick the remaining meat.
Step 4: Simmer and Stew
I hung the strainer over the crockpot and poured the mixing bowl contents back through it. I didn't find any bones on the second pass, but I was able to then take all the meat to my cutting board and give it a final chop. I went ahead and dumped all the vegetables into the broth and let it cook with the finely chopped meat. I highly recommend letting it go low and slow if you don't want overly crunchy carrots and celery. I added some additional broth.
I made the mistake of adding my pasta to the crockpot. I'd either boil them and add them cooked, or boil the whole mixture and cook the noodles accordingly. The result I got was more stew-like, with the noodles breaking down and thickening the liquid. It was unintentional, but this was definitely a filling soup when done.
Step 5: Napkin, Please!
I seasoned everything with some additional salt and pepper. The soup was great as-is, but I especially enjoy it with some toast and a dab of hot sauce for some zip. This is a favorite recipe come winter time and always makes an appearance after a holiday meal with a big bird.
How do you warm your belly on a cold day? Do you have a favorite way to reuse ingredients? I'd love to hear from you in the comments and see what you're making!
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