Unboring Turkey Leftover Soups

I know you — after Thanksgiving dinner, you save the turkey bones, skin, scraps, and leftover gravy, and make turkey noodle soup the next day. It’s familiar, it’s thrifty, it’s nutritious, and – let’s be honest – it’s a little bit boring. Here are some new ideas.

            After all the cooking you’ve done to get ready for Turkey Day, you’re going to be very glad you have a well-stocked pantry; it’s going to get good use for these soups. And while I give you amounts for the ingredients in the informal recipes that follow, don’t forget: It’s SOUP. Very flexible, very easy to modify. If you don’t like something, leave it out; if you want more of something (spiciness, for instance) add it in.

First, Make Your Stock. In a large soup pot, place the turkey carcass and any orphaned bits of meat, and cover with cold water. If there was leftover gravy, add that too, but no more than one cup. From yesterday’s relish tray, salvage the carrot sticks, celery sticks, and green onion; throw them in the pot too. Simmer over low heat for about an hour (this is also a great place to use your slow cooker). Strain out and discard all the solid bits and pieces; refrigerate the remaining stock until the fat congeals on the top; remove and discard the solid fat. Now you have rich, flavorful turkey stock, ready for the next steps. Let’s say, for simplicity, that you have approximately 4 cups of stock. If not, add enough water to bring the total up to that, because the following recipes assume that you start with 4 cups of liquid. With all the various additions, that will give you 4 to 6 servings.


Thanksgiving-Leftovers-Like-Never-Before Soup. To your 4 cups of stock, add in whatever leftover mashed potatoes you have (but not more than 4 cups). Mix thoroughly, until very smooth; a blender or food processor helps. Taste. If it’s not rich enough, add more gravy. If it’s too thick, add more water, milk, or some chicken stock. What about leftover stuffing? Use your judgment. It will make the soup thicker, which you may or may not want; if it’s on the sweet side, say with dried fruit or maple syrup, you probably don’t want that flavor in your soup. Blend or process again. At this point you have a richly flavored turkey-potato soup. You could stop here, sprinkle on some grated cheddar cheese, and call it good. Which it would be. But you can make it even better with the rest of the leftovers. Green beans? Dice into bite size. Brussels sprouts? Slice vertically or chop, although if you have leftover Brussels sprouts because no one liked them yesterday, for heaven’s sake don’t put them in the soup. Marinated mushrooms? By all means. And of course any leftover turkey. Make it colorful with short strips of red or orange bell peppers, if you have some. Add all these goodies, heat soup, serve, take a bow.

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