I’m not sure if I’ve told you guys this yet or not, but I really enjoy Thanksgiving. I do. Friends, family, food, and wine. It doesn’t get much better than that. For most people, Thanksgiving is probably the biggest meal they prepare for the entire year. Not only are we roasting a giant bird that takes up the whole oven for 5+ hours, but we’re also making multiple desserts, and multiple vegetables, multiple sides & multiple accompaniments to that bird. In my family, and now in my home, Thanksgiving takes days, not hours, to prepare.
The second best part of such a large meal that took so much time and effort to prepare is the left overs! (The first is obviously eating it the first time around with people you love) In my family, and I think in most people’s families, we tend to eat our meal early, have pie a few hours later, and then go back in a few hours after that for sandwiches made from leftover biscuits, cranberry sauce, turkey & dressing. Are you drooling yet?
Generally, there tends to still be some meat left on that giant bird even after the meal is done and a few sandwiches have been built and devoured. Once the biscuits and dressing have disappeared, if there’s still meat on those bones, it’s time to think of something else. You’re probably getting anxious to have your refrigerator back and need a recipe that uses up every last part of that giant animal in there.
Enter soup. Soup is the perfect way to make the best use of what’s left of your leftovers. A few days after Thanksgiving you probably only have a little bit of meat left, and it’s probably starting to dry out. Once I tore into those bones with clean hands and started pulling things apart, I realized that I had more meat left than I thought. Most of it was dark meat, but once it was all pulled off the carcass there were probably about 3 to 4 loose cups of bite sized chunks. That made for a very respectable soup.
You’re going to have to get very comfortable getting your hands dirty and tearing through some old bones, but you’ll be very glad you went to the trouble once your hands are clean and you have a super flavorful stock bubbling away on the stove. Since Turkeys are so much larger than chickens, there are a lot more bones. There are a lot of nutrients and tons of protein in those bones that is really really good for you if you take the time to extract them. A Slow cooked stock made from bones is packed with calcium, magnesium and other minerals, as well as dissolved cartilage and connective tissue materials like chondroitin and glucosamine which are great for your joints and can help with arthritis. Homemade stock is also full of natural gelatin, which is great for your hair, teeth, nails, skin, bones, joints and stomach lining. Studies also show that gelatin can aid in digestion, help your body release toxins, and even can help you sleep better.
If you’ve ever noticed that the juices your turkey release after being carved sometime congeal into a wobbly brown gel on your platter or carving board, that’s gelatin in action. There is so much gelatin in this turkey stock that the finished soup congealed once refrigerated. This recipe made too much soup for Russell and I to eat in one evening, so some of it went into some tupperware to be reheated the next evening. When I took the soup out it had turned into a jiggly turkey soup jell-o. I had to turn the tupperware over and shake it until the whole soup slid out and plopped into the pan like a can of gelled cranberry sauce. (Don’t worry, it turns back to liquid when heated)
This may sound unappealing to some, but believe me, this is a good thing. That amount of gelatin in your soup not only means that you’re soup is packed with health benefits, but also makes for a soup with amazing flavor and a beautiful consomme-like viscosity. If you’re not sure what I mean, it’s not thick like gravy, but just somehow feels like it coats your mouth and tongue more completely than watery chicken broth. If you still don’t get it, just try it. You can thank me later. I prefer white or yellow roses over red.
So, after I went to all the trouble to make this amazing healthy and hearty stock, I wanted a simple soup that highlighted rather than masked the richness of the turkey. I decided to go for a straightforward chicken soup style recipe, with onions, carrot, and celery. Perfect compliments to poultry. I decided that I wanted to add the chewiness of wild rice to the soup rather than noodles. Russell is obsessed with wild rice, and it holds up better than traditional rice or noodles if there are leftovers. Wild rice is also packed with protein and is really good for you, so another bonus! Last, I decided to add some dill to the soup to give it a nice bright fresh flavor. With a soup made from leftovers that bubbled and boiled on the stove for hours, it would be easy for it to taste heavy and tired, but the addition of dill brightens and lightens the whole thing up, giving it new life. You would never taste this and think it was made from leftovers.
Not only is this soup fresh, healthy, hearty and delicious all at once, but it also helped me rid myself of the last of the Thanksgiving meal. Now the fridge is clean and un-stuffed, and I can start thinking ahead to…
Christmas! In just a few short weeks there will be Christmas dinner, Christmas cookies, Christmas parties, and Christmas cocktails!
Turkey Soup with Wild Rice and Dill
2 large onions
6 stalks celery
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup wild rice
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons finely chopped dill
With clean hands, pull all remaining meat off of your turkey, being careful to avoid any skin or bones. Tear meat into bite sized chunks and store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. Place all bones and skin from the turkey into an 8 quart stockpot, breaking up the carcass to fit as needed. Roughly chop one onion (skin on), 2 stalks of celery (leaves on) and 2 carrots; and add to stockpot along with enough water to cover the turkey. If desired, add herbs like sage or thyme. Cover your pot, and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the pot is at a low boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for an hour or until you’re comfortable handling it.
Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard the bones and set stock aside while you start your soup. Chop your remaining onion and celery into a medium dice, and slice your carrots into rounds. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in the bottom of a heavy bottomed stockpot, add your vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring regularly, until onions and celery are soft and translucent, and any liquid has cooked off. Add your wine and cook down until dry. Add the wild rice and brown for just a minute or two, stirring constantly. Strain the stock into the stockpot, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every so often. Add pulled turkey meat and half your chopped dill, and simmer for 15-20 minutes more. Just before serving stir in remaining chopped dill, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.