Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Turkey Carcass Soup with Maztah Balls

No wonder the protein of choice for Thanksgiving is the turkey! It's such a giving animal ... weeks after Thanksgiving is over, you might still be left with frozen bits and pieces waiting to morph into new dishes. It seems to never end. Even when you're left with nothing but skin and bones, that turkey isn't nearly done yet!

The turkey carcass is probably one of the most overlooked and underused culinary gems, at least in home kitchens. Those bones have so much flavor, and so much to offer nutritionally, that it might actually make more sense to toss the meat and keep the carcass. OK, slight exaggeration, but you get my point.

Any bone broth is full of calcium, since it is drawn out of the bones into the liquid. The amount of calcium that comes out the bones can be multiplied by the addition of an acid ... in this case, vinegar. Of course, just as Mom's chicken soup will cure your ills, so will turkey carcass soup. And that's no myth! Adding to the comfort-food factor, I thought I'd throw in some matzah balls this year. They just make soup feel so much more homey. Even if you're not Jewish, try this. You'll never crumble crackers in soup again!

What amazes me most about this soup is that even when you're sick of the smell of turkey, as so many of us are after several days of leftovers, this soup still tastes amazing. You may not want another turkey dinner, but you you WILL want this soup!

A little pointer: Please learn from my mistake! I usually freeze the carcass at Thanksgiving and use it when I need it. Unfortunately, I didn't realize the size of my carcass (17 lb bird), and I should have cut it in pieces before freezing. That made it fairly difficult to fit the whole thing in my stock pot, but it worked nonetheless. A little extra wrestling and a lot of persistence, and the whole thing ended up in the pot.

Turkey Carcass Soup with Matzah Balls

1 turkey carcass (including any bits of meat, skin, and fat attached)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
4 celery stalks
5 carrots
1-2 onions, peeled and halved
2 c. mushrooms (any you like), sliced
3 Tbsps. parsley, minced

Place the carcass in a very large stock pot. Add cold water until carcass is submerged (or in my case, to the top of the pot). Add vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Season well with salt and pepper.

Cut the tops and ends off the celery and carrots and throw those into the pot, reserving the middles for later. Peel the carrots, and throw the peel in as well. Add the onion.

Once boiling, reduce to low and simmer, uncovered, for 2-2 1/2 hours. Occasionally, you will see a bubbly scum rise to the surface. Skim this off with a slotted spoon.

Strain the soup. Separate the meat from the carcass, break into bite-size pieces, and return to the soup. Discard the rest. Refrigerate overnight.

Skim the fat off the surface. You will notice that the broth is gelatinous when cold. This is normal, and it will return to a liquid state when heated.

Bring the soup back to the stove, and bring to a boil over high heat. Slice remaining carrots and celery. Once boiling, add carrots, celery, and mushrooms to the pot. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add mushrooms and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add parsley, and adjust seasonings.

Light & Fluffy Matzah Balls (from The Kosher Palette by Joseph Kushner)
1 c. matzoh meal (can be found in the Jewish food section of your supermarket ... get whole wheat, if you can find it)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. light oil
1/4 c. water
2 tsps. salt
1 quart chicken broth

Combine matzoh meal, eggs, oil, water and salt in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Add the chicken broth and 1 quart water to a stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat. With slightly wet hands, form the matzoh meal mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls (15-20), and drop into the boiling broth. Reduce heat to medium and cover the pot, allowing to boil for 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, move the matzah balls into the turkey soup. Reserve remaining chicken broth for other uses (you can cook rice or other grains in it for added flavor).

If you prefer, you could simply boil the matzah balls directly in the turkey soup, but they might absorb too much of the stock.

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