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Turkey Carcass Soup

Hopefully, the advantages of roasting a turkey every once and again, even if it’s not a holiday, are obvious.  Depending on how many people you’ve got around raiding the fridge, you could be picking meat off of that sucker for weeks.  Possibilities for leftovers are endless: cold sliced turkey breast sandwiches (with swiss cheese and the bread spread with leftover cranberry sauce), hot turkey sandwiches smothered in gravy, turkey pot pie… etc.

I recently picked up a “post-holiday sale” turkey from the freezer bin at the grocery store, and my husband said, “How big of one are we getting?”  I responded, “The biggest one they’ve got, of course!”  Seriously, your level of effort is the same for a 22-pounder as a 10-pounder, and the leftovers will freeze well.  So if you’re going to go for it, you may as well go all the way.

Now, this is not a post on the best way to roast your turkey.  That is a holy war I’m not about to jump into right now.  (I’m stilled nursing my wounds from suggesting to my mother that she shouldn’t stuff her turkey to prevent overcooking and dryness of the meat.)  Rather, this is a post with a “recipe” for possibly the best leftover result of putting in that roasting effort – turkey carcass soup.

That’s right – when you’ve picked all the meat you could possibly want to pick off of that bird, there is still an odd collection of meat scraps, fat scraps, cartilage and bones that, when slowly simmered, makes a delicious stock.  Don’t even think of tossing it in the trash!  Here at Home Cooking Well, we’re dedicated to the food bang for your buck, and what better way to derive value than to use every last bit of your $0.69/lb masterpiece in the pursuit of deliciousness?

Admittedly, this is not so much of a recipe as a “throw whatever you like and have on hand in there,” but this is what worked for me tonight.  Be liberal with your variations.

1 turkey carcass, as stripped of meat as you want
1 cube chicken boullion (or 1 tsp “Better than Boullion”)
3 carrots, halved lengthwise, then thickly sliced
4 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, halved then sliced
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 c. brown rice
1 bouquet garni
1 bay leaf
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
2 tsp salt
generous grinding of black pepper
1/2 c. dry white wine

Put all ingredients in large crock pot. Fill with water to cover ingredients, or to 1-inch below the top of the crock. Simmer on low all day long.  This can also, of course, be done on the stove top, though it’s not quite as busy-lifestyle friendly — just use a large stock pot, bring to the boil, and then simmer gently at least until rice is cooked (about 1 hour), but ideally 2 hours or more to properly infuse flavor.

The results of my 10 minutes of slaving this morning before work. Not a bad meal, with a few good lunches to take to work, besides.

Serve with store bought or homemade rolls – the big yeasty kind, for sopping up the soup.

Remember to avoid eating the bouquet garni or bay leaf (though neither will really hurt you) or the turkey bones (could hurt), or fish these things out before serving.  If you have any suggestions about how to strain the bones out while still letting those delicious meat fragments cook off into the soup, I’m all ears.

In my book, the  go-to noontime fare is a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, mayo and a slice of cheddar cheese.

Its virtues are endless. It has all four food groups.  I never arrive to work to find that a lid was knocked loose and half my lunch is now soaking the bottom of my tote bag. Best of all, it’s power-outage proof; I don’t need a microwave to enjoy it.

Turkey sandwiches represent everything that we hold dear at Home Cooking Well. Except, of course, the price per pound is pretty steep for that really nicely sliced, roasted turkey breast from the deli case. Those pale slices of meat do get pretty slimy and questionable in a matter of days. Not great value at six dollars a pound.

My husband found a great way to deliver us tons of tasty sandwiches that make good economic sense. He buys a whole frozen turkey breast, which usually runs about $2.50 per pound, roasts it, and we have plenty of lunch meat that keeps much better than the deli sliced breast.

And, because the National Day of Feast is upon us, this is prime time for turkey sandwiches. Turkey breasts abound in bigger packages with slashed price tags attached to their netted handles. This week, I lugged home twenty pounds’ worth at $1.52 a pound. Just do a bit of labor and I have a store of lunchmeat: Roast it, carve it into bread-sized, one-pound blocks and freeze it.

I’ll boil it down to a simple equation.

Twenty pounds of deli meat: $120.

Twenty pounds of Thanksgiving sale turkey breast: $30.

Savings: $90.

Not bad.

No need to thank me. I take checks!

Tenting Aluminum Foil

I have the Cadillac of ovens: a real Kitchen-Aid with a slick digital timer, a bread proofing button, and everything. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but it was part of the reason I bought my place. : ) It  has been sadly out of service for a month as the keyboard shorted out (the price of luxury) but I just got it fixed this week. Overjoyed hardly begins to describe it. For the new keypad’s maiden voyage I made an old favorite: vegetable lasagna.

Because I own the Cadillac of ovens, it has a special exhaust fan in the back that works to keep the temperature even. This has the effect of making the oven work a bit like a convection oven, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it speeds up cooking sometimes. It’s bad because it overbrowns. The solution to overbrowning, as you may know, is to put aluminum foil over your cookies, pie, cake, etc. You should do this anytime you feel they are starting to get too brown before they are truly done.

But I’ve encountered a big problem with foil — if you just stick it on some objects flat across the top, they stick. I’ve had problems with that with my lasagna, where the cheese bubbles up and sticks to the foil. That can be a good thing if there are just a few golden brown, crispy cheese spikelets for the cook to eat. But if it’s a significant portion of your cheese, that’s not so good. A few months ago, I ripped an entire chunk of sheet cake off a cake when it stuck to the foil — and because it was still gooey, there was no way to replace it. Here at altitude, our cakes tend to rise REALLY high before assuming their proper height, even if they’ve been properly altitude adjusted (which is a whole other problem).

So with this lasagna, I tried something I vaguely remembered reading or hearing about as the solution to the problem: folding the aluminum into a little tent and place that over the baking object. I just folded my foil in half at an obtuse angle and laid it on the rims of the pan. I’ve never been quite sure how aluminum foil prevents browning (is it just preventing the reflection of heat from the top of the oven? If so, wouldn’t heat get reflected under the foil?) and I half wondered if tenting it wouldn’t just bring the browning problem back. But it worked — perfectly. No sticking to the foil. No premature browning.

Magnifique! Give it a try next time you’re worried about browning *and* sticking.

More HCW News

It turns out my sister won’t be joining us after all here at HCW . . . but my friend and fellow Coloradan Amy Simpkins will! She has experience with making homemade backpacking and mountaineering  meals using a home dehydrator, perfecting the recipes of Nigella Lawson and Cooking Light, and has all-round kitchen-fu. Look for her posts coming soon.

Pork and cranberries

A couple of weeks ago, over coffee, my friend Sharon passed along this very elegant, simple and autumnal dinner idea: Empty half a bag of cranberries (rinsed and sorted, of course) into a baking dish, sprinkle a bunch of sugar on top of that, add a layer of 3-4 pork chops, and add remaining berries and another layer of sugar, cover dish with foil, bake at 350 for one hour.

Sounded like a champion weeknight dinner to me. I actually made it Saturday night, using thick boneless chops and it baked alongside a sunshine squash. Dubious, I did add a half-cup of water to pork and berry mixture.

On the positive side, by the time the baby was asleep in his crib, I had a beautiful crimson, steaming dish was ready to serve.

The berries added tremendous excitement to this simple dish, and here’s why: I used far less sugar than one would put in traditional cranberry compote — no more than a 1/3 cup, I guesstimate. It wasn’t sweet and that was actually a good thing. I experienced cranberries in a whole new way. Baking tempered the fruit’s’ aggressive, face scrunching tartness. Flavored with pork fat and juices, it became this a lovely dry but slightly savory sauce that just shouted of all things autumn.

As for the meat, it was well-cooked, but tough and tasteless as cardboard. My thoughts: I would brine the pork for an hour. Serving time for a weeknight meal would be later, but really no less inconvenient.

This dish could be a winner, folks. So, reader, I invite you to ponder, experiment and report back.

Hi everyone — You may have noticed there have been no new posts for over a month. I have realized it is impossible for me to maintain this blog to the standard I’d like by myself while also keeping up with my other blog — The Artful Amoeba — working my day job, and starting a freelance writing career on the side. As much as I love writing about cooking, I can’t do everything and I’ve got to prioritize. I started this blog as an experiment, and it’s been fun, but it’s not working as is.

I thought about killing the blog, but have instead decided to try bringing on two co-bloggers — my friend and former colleague Jodi Rogstad of Cheyenne, Wyo., and my sister Ashley Frazer of Rockwall, Texas. I greatly trust their cooking instincts. We’re going to aim for one new post a week, give or take, and see how we do. I’ll still be trying to post once a month, so you can still look forward to hearing from me too. If you have any questions or comments, please let m(us) know.

Ashley and Jodi will introduce themselves to you soon. Happy home cooking!

Jennifer

"It's a living . . . " The author's hard-working brown sugar bear.

"It's a living . . . " The author's hard-working brown sugar bear.

Claire Walter observed in a recent comment:

Keeping brown sugar moist is a challenge for me. I read that slice of bread in the sugar bag or container keeps it moist and usable. I tried that and it helped — a little. Suggestions?

Ahhh . . . brown sugar sedimentary rock prevention — a chore familiar to all of us in the West. Brown Sugar is the culinary bane of dry climates (and forgetful people in humid climates). Though we westerners may be able to make divinity on a whim, and our crackers, cereals, and chips stay fresh until their oils go rancid, brown sugar tends to mineralize no mater what we do.

It is true that a slice of bread will work — for a while (coincidentally, I have also heard that apple slices work). After the bread slice is completely dry the brown sugar will start drying out once again. It seems there are few plastic bags that don’t have microcracks, and the water vapor that keeps brown sugar soft will find these cracks and escape. I’ve tried double bagging my brown sugar — and that also doesn’t work. I’ve even had unopened bags of brown sugar with no visible cracks get hard after they sat around long enough.

In my experience, there are two ways to get around this.

  1. Continually supply moisture. That’s why bread works, but also why you have to keep replacing the bread after a few weeks. There are a few downsides — the brown sugar will adhere to and crystalize on parts of the bread. Plus I like to save those odd bread slices for French toast, bread pudding, etc. in the freezer (although, as my friend Ben P. points out, dried-out bread with some brown sugar adhered is by no means no longer a candidate for bread pudding). A similar method is to buy a terra cotta brown sugar bear (see top of post), or for those more economically inclined, find a piece of a broken terra cotta flower pot and file down the sharp edges. You simply soak them in water for 20 minutes, wipe them off, and toss them in with your sugar. You have the same problem (as with bread) with some of the sugar adhering and crystalizing on the bear, but all in all the method works well for a few weeks or months. But eventually those microcracks will get you and you’ll have to recharge the bear. Still kind of annoying.
  2. Find some sort of NASA-grade hermetically sealed containers. Those glass jars with the rubber-gasketed clamped-on lids seem like they would do the trick. Or some really kick-ass tupperware. In this case, you are preventing any moisture from leaving whatsoever. The down side is that you are limited to storing however much brown sugar will fit in your container. So I’d recommend buying a big one.

Whatever you do, don’t microwave the sugar unless you will be using it right away. Microwaving brown sugar will soften it temporarily, but in the end only removes more water from the sugar, and once it cools it will become even harder than before.

Anyone else care to chime in?

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