When you think of “holiday traditions”, it’s easy to think of long-established ones instead of newer ones. When I think of Christmas, for example, one of the first things I think about are sausage balls, a Christmas morning treat my mom has been making as far back as I can remember. But I’m really starting to look forward to one of my newest traditions: turkey noodle soup!
For the past two years, Lisa and I have been tasked with making the turkey for the Wilson family Thanksgiving. Following Alton Brown’s foolproof recipe, I’ve made a delicious bird each time. And since the turkey is “ours”, I get to take home all the leftovers. Last year I was puzzling over what to do with the giant turkey carcass, when I noticed that we had a lot of leftover celery and carrots too. Soup instantly popped in my mind… and it was so good!
It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. To make your own turkey noodle soup from scratch, all you need is some leftover turkey, some vegetables, a few spices, some spare time, and a little bit of love.
First, pull all the leftover meat off the turkey, put it in a container or Ziploc bag, then put it in the fridge.
Next, put all the turkey bones into a large pot, breaking the carcass apart if necessary. If you have any other leftover turkey parts (like the neck or giblets), add those to the pot, too. Chop up a large onion and a couple of carrots and stalks of celery and add those to the pot (the veggies will eventually be thrown away, so there’s no need to cut them perfectly or to choose the prettiest veggies for this step; in fact, past-their-prime veggies work better than fresher ones!). Add water to the pot, enough to cover the bones, then add a smashed clove of garlic, a tablespoon or so of black peppercorns, and some sage (or “poultry seasoning”, if you have that). Bring the water to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to “2” or “3”, or whatever will keep the water at a strong simmer. Let the stock cook for around two hours.
Allow the stock to cool. This is not, strictly speaking, necessary, but it’s better to accidentally spill lukewarm stock than boiling-hot stock, so take that under advisement. Anyway, put a colander in a large bowl, and carefully pour the stock into the colander. Shake the colander to get all the stock out, then discard the bones and spent veggies. Cover the bowl and let cool further, then put in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
The next step is to carefully skim off any fat (the thick yellow stuff at the top of the stock) using a spoon.
After this, chop up some carrots, onion and celery and put it in a large pot with some crushed garlic. Add just enough oil to coat the veggies, then sweat over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add several handfuls of the leftover turkey to the veggies, stir and cook for a couple of minutes more. Pour the stock into the pot, and bring to a boil (add any spices you’d like, like crushed red pepper, black peppercorns and sage while you wait for it to boil).
When the soup comes to a boil, add whatever pasta you like. For this particular batch, I used a half bag of leftover egg noodles and a half bag of leftover fusilli. Stir well, cover and reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally, and cook for around 30 minutes.