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Monday, January 5, 2009

3 Meals from Leftover Turkey Bones

When planning a get together with Family (both my side and Husband’s), I usually get the “bring some extra containers for leftovers” reminder. This Christmas it paid off – we got the leftover Christmas turkey carcass!


We knew that if we rendered the turkey we could easily cook a lot of the remaining meat off those bones for a second meal as well as make a huge heaping helping of homemade turkey stock for future meals.




So yes, as we drove the 150+ miles home, we changed the words to the song, “I’m Getting Nothing’ for Christmas” to “I Got A Carcass for Christmas!” because we were anticipating a couple of meals to come out of those smoked turkey bones.

My apologies to my vegetarian readers because this post is going to be all about cooking meat. While Husband and I do eat many vegetarian meals, we like to satisfy our carnivore instincts too. Chances are I will use the word carcass quite a bit because you never really get to use that word in polite society anymore. OK, well, ever. In the meantime, you vegetarians can kick back and make Husband’s vegetarian friendly Homemade Orangina instead – it’s yummy!

How to Render Bones into Soup Stock/Broth



The first step is to simmer the turkey (or chicken) meat and bones in a large pot of water to remove any large portions of meat from the bone (called rendering), along with vegetables (such as carrots, onions, and garlic) and herbs, (oregano/basil and a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor.) The bones are an important part of this equation because the marrow in the bones will add flavor and body to your stock as well as whatever fat is in the meat. If you are making stock from poultry, do not add the giblets (the gizzard, liver, and heart) to your pot because they will make your stock bitter. Bleach!

Since our turkey meat was already flavored by smoking, Husband just stuck the entire turkey carcass into the Crockpot (you may have to cut the carcass so it fits into your slow cooker or if you don’t have a slow cooker/Crockpot you can use a stock pot on the stove.) He covered it in water, added a bit of salt to bring out the flavor and oregano to compliment the turkey’s original smoked flavoring and let the whole thing simmer on low heat for the day (6-8 hours) while Husband and I were working. Easy turkey broth people.

Of course, if you’re using a stockpot method, I don’t recommend that you leave anything to cook on a stove unattended. That’s an excellent way to burn down your humble abode, and no amount of turkey stock is worth that!

By the time both of us finished work, the large chunks of turkey meat that were difficult to cut from the bone had cooked off the bird for easy eating access and the turkey bones were rendered into a soup stock that we could either use to make the following night’s meal or put in the freezer for future food prep.

Rendering was complete and Meal #1 was ready to serve.

Meal #1: Turkey hunks with a side of holiday meal leftovers.

Rendering the turkey carcass into broth in the slow cooker made the meat fall off the bone. It was easy to scoop the now big chunks of turkey meat out of the Crockpot with a slotted spoon and easily feed two people for that night’s dinner. Since both of us were still recovering from Holiday Travel Overload (600 miles in three days) we took the easy way out and paired the turkey with cooked green beans and warmed up the leftover thrice baked potatoes our hostess also sent home with us.

After dinner, we disposed of the turkey bones, put the lid on the Crockpot, and stuck the whole thing as in the refrigerator for the next day’s adventure: Making soup from the homemade turkey stock.

How to Make Soup from Homemade Turkey Stock

After cooling, chances are a layer of fat will have floated to the top of your rendered stock/broth. Depending up how fatty your meat is, you may want to remove some of it from your liquid although I don’t recommend removing all of the fat because it holds the majority of the stock’s flavor (which is why our ancestors were so keen on cooking with whole meat fats in the first place. You know, in the days before science and The American Heart Association told us that meals of all fats all the time isn’t such a good idea for heart heath.) Our turkey was lean, so we left what little fat that that congealed on top of the stock as is.

Meal #2: Somewhat Italian Wedding Soup

After Meal #1, we had flavored turkey stock, minus the big hunks of turkey meat. To make the turkey stock into a real soup for that night’s dinner it needed some help. Husband defrosted some frozen spinach, added it and the last of the barley in the pantry, and a couple of handfuls of diced turkey ham (in lieu of meatballs, which is why we call it Somewhat Italian Wedding Soup) to the turkey stock. Again, we let the whole thing simmer on low heat in the slow cooker for the day while Husband and I were working.

Crockpot cooking = quick and easy meal but a bad day to work from home. As with the previous day’s rendering, by three o’clock in the afternoon the smell of soup cooking in the Crockpot had me diving into the four tins of leftover Christmas cookies - a combined sugar overload effort on both of our mothers.

When Husband finished his 9 mile run after work, our dinner of Somewhat Italian Wedding Soup was ready to serve.

After dinner, we put the lid on the Crockpot and put the whole thing as in the refrigerator for the next day’s adventure: Making turkey and noodles from the leftover soup.


Meal #3: Turkey and Noodles

We let our food stores run low because we didn’t want them to spoil while we were visiting family for the holidays. Enduring New Year’s Eve Grocery Store Madness had zero appeal. The same goes for restaurant food. The leftover Somewhat Italian Wedding Soup could have certainly fed either Husband or I for lunch, but wasn’t a large enough portion to feed both of us for the following night’s dinner. However, Husband, the brilliant man that he is, was able to squeak one more dinner out of those already stretched turkey leftovers: turkey and noodles.

Turkey/chicken and noodles is an extremely simple dish to make and one of my cold weather favorites. Since the turkey and broth were ready to go, Husband cooked, drained, and rinsed a bag of egg noodles. Then he heated the noodles up with the leftover Somewhat Italian Wedding Soup in a stockpot on the stove. Once he heated the ingredients through, dinner was ready to serve.

After dinner, we didn’t have anything left of the turkey. We did the dishes instead.


Number of times I used the word carcass in this post: seven.

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