Thanksgiving leftovers. In my family leftover turkey and gravy will be served over slices of bread for hot open faced sandwiches. If there’s enough leftover white meat we may piece together club sandwiches as well. Some years I’ll get ambitious and make a home made mole sauce just to mix things up a bit. (Turkey and Mexican brown mole is a perfect fit). Creatively transforming yesterday‘s leftovers into today‘s supper is a sensible part of home cooking, especially around the holidays. And in my opinion the most sensible move of all is making a big soup from the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey.
My childhood memories of the “day after” soup are as vivid as those of Thanksgiving dinners. Mom would start the soup simmering around noon, and anyone who wanted could dish themselves up a bowl whenever they liked. On years when I did not stay overnight she’d dutifully send me home with some meat and bones (often a leg) to make my own pot of soup. Our family recipe has a unique twist: a can of tomatoes added to it. That’s right – tomatoes in turkey noodle soup. That may seem weird, but the result is sublime. The recipe is that of my maternal grandmother, Marie Pries. No one thought to ask her how she came up with it, so the origin is lost. I like to think it was the Depression-era ingenuity of a woman who had to feed nine on a Philadelphia milkman’s paycheck. Or she may have cribbed the idea from an equally clever neighbor. It doesn’t matter; the soup, seasoned with Worcestershire sauce at the table, is both novel and delicious regardless of its origin. At least four generations of my family have been digging it.
My grandmother, mother and I all cook the same way: eyeballing everything. A pinch of this, a dash of that – taste and reason. Here’s how turkey noodle soup goes down in my family the day after Thanksgiving. You’ll need:
Chopped soup vegetables (onion, celery, carrot)
Carcass of holiday bird, with as many scraps of meat as you have
Large can crushed tomatoes
Herbs (I like a couple sprigs fresh rosemary; parsley and thyme are good, too)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place the turkey carcass and meat scraps in a large soup pot and cover with water so pot is just a little more than half-full. Add chopped vegetables and tomatoes, then let it all simmer, covered, for an hour. Remove bones from soup. A large slotted spoon works well for this. (If you used a leg you’ll have to fish out tendons as well). Add herbs and egg noodles. I figure about 1/2lb wide egg noodles for a large pot of soup. Use more for a really thick soup. Let it simmer, stirring as the noodles cook (about ten minutes). If you used fresh rosemary or thyme remove sprigs now. Taste to determine how much salt and pepper to add. I go light on the salt because I add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce to my bowl at the table, and that stuff is really salty.
Leftover gravy can be added to the soup as well, for a more intense result. If it looks like you’re going to have more soup than people to eat it I’d separate out a quantity before adding the noodles. Without the noodles this soup freezes very well, and might be nice to revisit on some upcoming cold night.
P Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world repeatedly, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is a serious home cook with over two decades’ experience cooking for family, friends and fellow rock and rollers. Mr Bowersock keeps a toe in the wine business as well, consulting for the wine lists of several neighborhood establishments, including Clandestino, 35 Canal St. When not on tour or in the recording studio he’s scouring the neighborhood for frugal food finds.
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Fun article. In our family, we call it bone soup and we make it with saved up frozen chicken bones, too. This year I am going to try the recipe that was in the Times today for a Mexican style turkey soup. I love this soup and the recipe seems both authentic and simple.
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