Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gobble in a Bowl

Some years, I buy two or three turkeys while there are killer deals at the grocery store before Thanksgiving. Generally, the bigger the bird, the better deal you get. Why? The bones are close to the same size in the smaller birds as they are in the larger birds. That means there is more meat per pound of turkey on those larger birds. Therefore, if you have room in your freezer, don't hesitate to get a 21 lb. or larger turkey, even if there are only a few people in your family. 

What would you do with a huge turkey?
  • Toss the left-over meat in the freezer in freezer bags -- breast meat, being drier, should be used before the darker meat. Our family has a lot of meals (turkey crepes, included), that we traditionally have after Thanksgiving, and the freezer extends the time between those meals. So, I buy some turkeys even if I am eating at the in-laws. A turkey is easy to cook, and it makes for a least a week's meals. Yes, turkey is ultra cheap, but ONLY if you buy it around this time of year or have an "in" with the Norbest people.
  • Freeze the legs separately and make soup.
  • Make soup with the turkey carcass
My family likes the bones as much as the dinner that creates the bones. From those bones, we make one of our most delicious soups -- any soup would taste good from the turkey carcass. We're talking old-time soups like our grandmothers made. With a large turkey carcass, we get a huge pot of soup that lasts us several days. Add that to all the meat, and you can see why a turkey is so economical.

How to boil down a turkey carcass:
After dinner and after you've taken most of the meat off the turkey carcass (hey don't pick it clean, but do get most of it), cover the carcass and put it in the refrigerator to handle the next day. (Yes, you could do it the day you cook the turkey, but won't you be tired?) When ready to cook:
  • Put the carcass in the largest pot you own and fill the pot with water to a few inches over the top of most of the bones. (Unless you have a huge pot, some bones will stick up at first. It's O.K. to break apart the carcass if you can.)
  • Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn to low and simmer several hours. As the carcass cooks, you'll be able to break it apart a little so it will better fit your pot. You should turn the carcass over several times (check every half hour or so) until it does break down and fit the pan better. Add more water as necessary to keep the turkey covered but not so much it boils over the top of the pan.
  • The carcass is done when the remaining meat fragments easily slip off the bones and when most of the bones have separated from each other. At this point, if you take a large bone out of the pot, it dries a whitish color.
Now, remove all the bones.
The easiest way to do remove the bones is to first remove the largest bones with tongs. To remove the small bones:
  • Put a large colander in the top of a second large container. Carefully pour a little of the hot cooked liquid at a time into the colander, catching any solid pieces.
  • Put the solid pieces on a plate, a cutting board, or in a large bowl to cool a bit, while you repeat the pouring process. 
  • When the first solids have cooled enough, use clean fingers to separate meat from bones and gristle, feeling for very small bones and put the cleaned meat into a separate bowl. (No matter you carefully I look, there is always a small bone, but to date, I am the one who has always found that bone in my soup)
Return the meat and the broth to the large cooking pot, toss out the bones and gristle, and add the ingredients you want for soup. Some ideas: turkey and dumplings with veggies, turkey taco soup, turkey gumbo, or whatever sounds good with a brothy soup. If you like, you can add some bouillon or soup base to enhance the flavor.
Utah Turkey Gumbo Soup ( not New Orleans, but delicious, nevertheless):
The broth and meat from above
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 16 oz. bag frozen okra
1 or 2 (32 oz.) jars tomatoes (home-canned are the very best, of course)
1/2 cup dry rice or throw in 1 cup cooked rice.

Cook until veggies are tender and okra is starting to fall apart (the okra thickens the soup). Add rice and cook until done. Add a little soup base or bouillion to taste.

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