As I mentioned before, I wasn't able to head home to Ohio for Thanksgiving and so I spent the day with my friend Ana and her family. The dinner was by all accounts fabulous, and dessert was even better (though I barely had room!). Never again will I complain about having to do anything labor-intensive after eating a massive Thanksgiving dinner prepared by a woman who is 7+ months pregnant. Seriously, I don't know how she did it. Did I mention she also has an adorable 2-year old and that there were 3 other little ones running around? Such are the superpowers of moms. I offered my help multiple times, but it seems superwoman and her equally super husband were able to pull off a delicious dinner and a happy family gathering with ease. Many thanks for a great day with family, friends, and satisfying comfort food.
Now the days after Thanksgiving can often be a let down from the big day. All the extensive preparations are over, the 20-pound turkeys have (almost) been devoured, and that annoying aunt or uncle has finally left the premises for good (or at least until Christmas). In the silence that follows, many people can feel lonely and nostalgic while others start to get into full-on Christmas mode. Me?? I feel a little bit of both; after Thanksgiving I indulged myself and started my Christmas baking and also soothed myself with soup (and also shopping, but we don't need to talk about that-or look at those receipts-just yet).
When I was having dinner at Ana's place, I was secretly hoping that there would be enough turkey left so that I could take some home to make myself at least one bowl of soup; however, I was in for a big treat because there were loads of turkey left over! Score! So there I was, helping myself to my portion of leftovers, when Ana's husband called his brother over to help him get the turkey carcass into a bag. I assumed they were bagging it up to keep in the fridge, and I continued shoveling my loot (aka turkey) into a container. When John took the bag and said, "Ok, into the trash!" I screeched out, "Waaaait! I will take it home!" Ana, John, and his brother all looked at me for a minute like I was crazy. "I will use it to make turkey stock," I explained. They still looked at me like I was crazy. (You don't think I am crazy, right?)
I was delighted that I was given the go-ahead to haul the turkey home, and I ripped into it with all the glee of a two-year old devouring a cupcake. I separated all the bones and meat into portions that would be perfect for making two big pots full of turkey stock. To make the stock, I actually took a few cues from a book I have been perusing lately: Ratio-The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. As a scientist, I can really appreciate this book because it honors precision and appeases the analytical part of my brain. As a chef, I am loving this book because I think knowing the appropriate ratios to make foods taste their best gives more liberty and freedom to experiment in the kitchen and leads to less of a reliance on recipes.
For instance, in his book, Michael Ruhlman describes that the best stock can be achieved by using a 3:2 ratio of water to bones/meat. How do you know if you have met this golden ratio? Well, you could certainly use a scale to measure out your bones, and then add water knowing that 3 pounds of water equals exactly 6 cups. (I did this. I wanted to test his theory.) Or, (and this is where we humans have that uncanny sense of just 'knowing' something is right) you can put all your bones in a pot, and fill to just covering with water. Magically, this usually ends up giving you the golden ratio. Easy? Yes, it is. Know the ratios and you don't need a recipe.
Then it is as simple as simmering your stock for a few hours, adding some veggies (if you have them, not strictly necessary) and simmering some more, straining, and storing. When all is said and done, you will have a full-bodied stock that puts the canned stuff to shame.
Once you have your stock, it is not much more effort to throw together a simple turkey noodle soup. I added the traditional carrots, celery and onions to my soup and then I decided to use these Fideo noodles that I found. I originally thought I wanted some fat egg noodles in my soup, but then I saw these and they reminded me a lot of the Mrs. Grass soup I used to eat when I was a child. Of course I bought them.
Whether or not you have any turkey left over or you decide to make your own stock (you should! you should!), I think you need to make yourself some soup. It is getting cold outside, and there is no better way to warm up from the inside. Plus, according to our grandmothers and many scientists, chicken or turkey soup actually helps to boost immunity, and the warmth breaks up congestion, helping you to chase away those flu bugs and feel better faster. Translated: it not only tastes good, but it is actually good for you. And speaking of grandmas, whenever my grandma made noodle soup for us, she would always add a little grated nutmeg on the top, and now I can't eat soup without it. I hope you try it.
This is an old spoon from my parent's collection. I brought it out to San Diego with me and I love it.
Turkey Noodle Soup
Turkey Stock (could be adapted for chicken stock):
Ingredients based on ratios from Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking
2 pounds turkey bones
3 pounds cold water (6 cups)
1 pound vegetables (1 cup), chopped onions, carrots, and celery; I used about 1/2 cup onions, and 1/4 cup each of carrots and celery*
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of parsley (or other herbs if you have them on hand*)
*Just use what you have, and don't purchase extra things just to make this. Stock without any vegetables added is also good!
Put the bones and water in a 1.5 gallon stockpot, and heat over high heat to bring the water just to a simmer. As it starts to simmer, skim off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer at a low temperature (if you have a thermometer, you are looking for 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 3-4 hours. Add the remaining ingredients, and bring the stock back to a low simmer for 1 additional hour. Strain the kitchen stock to remove all the solids, and then strain a second (or possibly a third time) through a kitchen cloth or doubled cheese cloth to remove all small particles. (Makes about 1 quart of stock.)
Turkey Noodle Soup:
3/4 cup diced onions
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 tsp minced garlic
4 cups turkey (or chicken stock)
Approximately 1 1/4 cup Fideo noodles (or noodles of your preference)
1/2-3/4 cup diced turkey or chicken, or as much as you prefer
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg for serving (optional)
Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil to the bottom of a large pot, and heat over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes or just until onions are beginning to soften. Add the celery to the same pot, and cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until celery is just barely tender. Add the remaining ingredients plus a pinch of salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer for 4-5 minutes or until noodles are tender (these small noodles cook pretty quickly). Taste broth, and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately, in large bowls. Top with grated nutmeg if desired.