Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Soup

First I want to wish all of our readers a joyful Thanksgiving. The world may be going to hell in a hand basket, but the annual joining together of family and friends to be thankful for the past year, for the harvest, for country and for each other is a reinvigoration of our spirit as we go into the light deprived winter period. We revel in the companionship, the story telling, the laughter and the food. We emerge from Thanksgiving with the busy year-end holiday season upon us, so there is much yet to do before the solstice greets us just before Christmas, and the days start getting imperceptibly longer.

Now let’s contemplate the subject of soup and later turkey soup.

Soup is a food composed of combining meat and/or vegetables, and sometimes bread, with water or stock. These ingredients are cooked together to meld their flavors and extract any gelatin from meats to give the results body and flavor with improved nutritional benefits. In the western world, soups may be served as a small first course in a multi-course meal as in a restaurant, or as the main course accompanied by a salad with bread and cheese in a household meal.

Soups fall into one of two categories, clear soups like consomm√© and bouillon or thickened soups like purees and bisques. Originally soup (or sop) was composed of a broth, initially made with onions and water, and bread used to soak up the liquid. Today the word “sop” has come to mean just the bread used to dip into a soup or stew.

The basis for most soups is some sort of stock, be it chicken stock, the most often used, vegetable stock, brown or white stock, or the king of all stocks, veal stock. While one can purchase stocks in the supermarket, homemade stocks are the best, in my opinion, and the household cook has ready access to the necessary ingredients in the realm of everyday cooking. Whether you have a chicken or turkey carcass left over, some left over bones if you cut up your chicken at home, as I do, or you purchase some inexpensive parts like poultry wings, legs or thighs, you are well on your way to a homemade soup.

One can roast some bones or poultry parts in a hot oven with carrots and onions until nicely caramelized to achieve a rich, appetizing brown stock or one can add these parts uncooked to a pot of cold water which, when completed, will yield a white stock. In either approach, when the protein choice is added to cold water and slowly brought to a simmer, the connective tissues in the meat, i.e collagen, hydrolyze (i.e. liquefy when exposed to heat) and gelatin is released into the liquid, thus the tendency of stocks to solidify when cool. This gelatin gives the stock body, which contributes to mouth feel when eaten. At the same time, some proteins and enzymes are freed into the water and fats, vitamins and some lactic and amino acids join the party. Usually aromatics are included in stocks and they contribute pectin, starches, acids like citric, tartaric and oxalic, which help give the stock flavor, aroma and taste.

I made a turkey stock from the bones I removed from my deboned turkey I cooked for Thanksgiving. Alternatively, you could purchase some turkey legs and/or thighs to make a stock from, or, of course, the carcass of your roasted bird always brings a lot of flavor to the party. In any event, combine the bones, roasted in a hot oven for 30 minutes or so, with onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, fresh or dried thyme and enough cold water to cover by 1 to 2 inches. Bring slowly to the simmer, skimming the scum and fat the accumulates on the top. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hour or so, but not for hours and hours. Strain the stock and cool quickly by placing in a cold or iced water bath in your sink, stirring the stock frequently. Change the cold water every half hour until the stock is 40 degrees. Refrigerate and later remove the solidified fat before using.

Turkey Soup

Serves 4-6

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced celeriac
1/2 cup diced parsnip
1/2 cup diced turnip
1/2 cup diced green beans
1 cup turkey drippings
1 cup turkey gravy
3 cups leftover turkey & stuffing, diced
6 cups turkey stock
4 tbl parsley, flat leaf, chopped fine
3/4 cup orzo (rice shaped pasta) or pasta of your choice or rice
1/4 cup Parmigianno-Regianno cheese, grated
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a 4 qt sauce pan and add the onions and saute 3-4 minutes. Add the balance of the diced root vegetables and saute another 3-4 minutes. Add the turkey drippings, gravy and turkey stock. Bring to a simmer, add the green beans and simmer 5 minutes. Add the turkey and the orzo and cook 10 minutes, or until the pasta is done. Stir in the chopped parsley. When serving, garnish each bowl with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of grated cheese and a piece of garlic rubbed bruschetta.

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