In a holiday season that traditionally begins with turkey and ends with goose, it should come as no surprise that this time of year is for the birds. And that includes roasted chickens, Cornish hens and even tiny, delicate quail.
Many of those larger birds produce leftovers, of course. So it’s our job as intrepid cooks to find ways to enjoy the season’s bird bounty over and over again, without getting the slightest bit bored.
After Thanksgiving, many households succumb to the pleasures of turkey sandwiches – whether that’s my simple sliced turkey on whole-grain bread with lettuce, mayo and black pepper, or something more elaborate, incorporating turkey on bread with your favorite stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes and even cranberry sauce.
Sometimes we forget, however, on all but the chilliest days, that one of the world’s oldest cooking techniques remains one of the most satisfying. On behalf of the birds of this holiday season, I invite you to prepare a warm, nourishing pot of soup.
This year, for a variety of reasons, I wanted to make something light and healthy. And what I discovered is that, when it comes to poultry in soup, one size really does fit all. In other words, a basic soup recipe that works with turkey also works with the biggest goose on down to the smallest quail. It’s simply about how many servings you can make after a while.
The essence of making all broth-based soups – as opposed to Cream of Whatever – is making the broth itself. In addition to how wonderful the process makes your house smell, this has got to be one of the most sustainable things you can ever do in your kitchen: using what you already have to fix a whole new meal.
Making stock with all the bones, vegetables, leaves and peelings left behind is therefore the sign of a classic professional kitchen. It seems many traditional European recipes were crafted specifically to use up the kitchen’s leftovers turned into stock. Those dearly departed chefs were sustainable, in other words, before sustainable was cool.
You simply remove as much meat from the bones as you can – you’ll add it later to the soup – put the bones in a large pot (cleverly sold as a “stock pot”), along with all the leftover onion, celery, bell pepper, carrots and most other things you can round up. Fill the pot with water till it barely covers all these good things. Bring that to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer (with you doing nothing) till the cows come home.
The longer this simmers and reduces, the richer the flavor. Professional kitchens often have special kettles that simmer one or more different stocks all night long. You should probably at least be home. When your stock is finished, food safety requires that you chill it as quickly as possible, in the refrigerator and sometimes split into smaller batches for faster cooling.
You should strain out the solids to get your stock. You should also remove as much of the fat as you can. Two popular (and ingenious) methods involve laying a paper towel across the top to soak it up, or chilling the stock in the refrigerator overnight. With the latter method, any fat will gather and solidify on top, letting you easily spoon it off. And you are ready then… to make wonderful soup.
TURKEY & ROASTED VEGETABLE SOUP
Besides being one of the most delicious things to make with any leftover, well, anything, poultry soups are super easy. They take time on the stove but not actually much trouble. And they are versatile when it comes to favorite flavor profile. It’s no problem to make a soup all-American, or indeed Italian, Tex-Mex or Asian.
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 cups chopped cauliflower
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup whole kernel corn
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Seasoning blend, or salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2-3 cups boneless turkey meat, mixture of light and dark, cut bite-sized
8 cups homemade turkey stock
1-2 cups Mom’s Special Marinara
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix all the vegetables in a roasting pan, toss with the olive oil, season and caramelize in the oven, 20-30 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetable to a stock pot over medium-high heat and stir in the garlic for 1 minute. Add meat, stock and marinara. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until soup is fully cooked together, at least 1 hour. Serve hot. Serves 8-10.
Note: if you need more liquid, feel free to stretch your homemade stock with store-bought chicken broth. If you simply want more flavor, you can sprinkle your stock with a bit of powdered “caldo de pollo” from the grocery shelf. Be careful with the salt level.
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