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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Give Thanks for Thanksgiving Soups


(2-11-11: Not quite sure what happened here, but an editing comment I entered moved this November 2010 entry up to February 2012! I decided not to delete it, just in case you find some help in the comments on broth and stock, along with some really good soup recipes. Still, just want you to understand the out of season commentary at the beginning!)

For the last couple of years, I have been a guest at the big Thanksgiving meal for our extended family. Since I haven't been making the turkey myself, I have become the "carcass catcher," offering to "take it off your hands" when the clean up process begins.

This year, I brought the bones home in the roaster where the bird had been prepared, so I also received the benefit of a large amount of rich drippings left after the gravy had been made. Popping all of these into my electric roaster (breaking up the bones so they could all be immersed in liquid), I added just enough water to cover before setting the roaster to simmer overnight. The next day, I put the bones in a large colander and had a gallon of rich, rich broth (or stock, whichever you prefer to call it*). I then pulled over a pound of easily salvaged meat off the bones before wrapping them securely for the garbage.

[*Wikipedia currently contains the following "distinction" between stock and broth:
The difference between broth and stock is one of both cultural and colloquial terminology but certain definitions prevail. Stock is the thin liquid produced by simmering raw ingredients: solids are removed, leaving a thin, highly-flavoured liquid. This gives classic stock as made from beef, veal, chicken, fish (court bouillon) and vegetable stock. Broth differs in that it is a basic soup where the solid pieces of flavouring meat or fish, along with some vegetables, remain. It is often made more substantial by adding starches such as rice, barley or pulses. Traditionally, broth contains some form of meat or fish: nowadays it is acceptable to refer to a strictly vegetable soup as a broth.
My usual practice is to call either of these broth, but you can split hairs as much as you'd like on this one!]

Our weather over Thanksgiving weekend was perfect for soup, so we gathered again for another meal with friends and family. (I had threatened to put out a Facebook invitation for a "Carcass and Carcassone" game night, but cooler heads prevailed!) I made my daughter-in-law Amy's wonderful tortilla soup with part of the extremely rich and concentrated broth. Since I wasn't sure that everyone at the table would be a fan of cilantro, I used another quart of broth for a vegetable soup. Those who came brought their leftover desserts; along with plain old saltines and some spiced apple rings I had made as an experiment, we had a quick and complete menu.

There was still broth left, so that went into the freezer for a large pot of potato soup on a very snowy night and the basis for a non-vegetarian but very good black bean and vegetable soup. Four great menus, serving lots of people, and all from the part of the turkey that is so often thrown away.

Here are some of the recipes used. As with all good homemade soups, however, the list of ingredients can and should be varied, based on what is in the refrigerator at the time.

Amy’s Tortilla Soup

Amy usually starts her soup by boiling a chicken. The soup then can be an appetizer course for the wonderful burritos she makes from the deboned chicken, but it is so good we often turn it into the main course and save the burritos for another meal. The recipe that follows is my adaptation of her wonderful recipe.

2 to 3 c rich chicken or turkey broth
2 to 4 chicken bouillon cubes or packets, depending
water
2 T cumin
1 to 2 t garlic powder OR 5 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
2 bunches cilantro, well washed and chopped fine--I include all but the coarsest stems and set aside about a third cup or so of the chopped leaves for garnish

Mix-ins
cilantro--see above
cubed Monterrey Jack and/or cheddar cheese
2 to 3 diced avocados
salsa of your choice
diced tomatoes if in season
tortilla chips

Combine the broth, bouillon, cumin, and garlic with enough water to make about three to four quarts of liquid. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cilantro, simmer for another half hour or so.

Meanwhile prepare the mix-ins and place in small bowls.

To serve, diners break some tortilla chips into the bottom of their soup bowls and then add whatever other mix-ins they wish. The boiling hot soup is ladled over the top. Hot sauce and plain yogurt or sour cream can be added if desired.

Winter Vegetable Soup--with Turkey Broth

Here's a wonderful thing to consider in making vegetable soups--finely shredded cabbage makes a nice sweet addition to the finished product, without anyone (especially those who usually eschew cabbage) really noticing it as a specific flavor. Cabbage is generally reasonable in price year round, and it is always near the top of those vegetables we are encouraged to include more often in our menus.

1 large onion, about 2 cups chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced OR garlic powder to taste ( 1 teaspoon?)
3 large carrots, diced
1 c butternut squash puree
2 to 4 cups rich turkey broth
2 to 3 cups finely shredded cabbage
12 to 16 oz frozen corn OR 15 oz can kidney beans OR both
1/2 cup pearl barley
seasoning--I like to use a mixture of dried basil, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram as a start, along with a basic seasoning salt and black pepper; alternative choices could include cumin (with cilantro chopped in), hot pepper flakes, or poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon cider or wine vinegar

Saute the onion, celery, and garlic in a little oil, cooking slowly until the onions are translucent and lightly golden. Put in a large slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients. Add water to make the volume about 3 to 4 quarts.

Simmer together on LOW for four to six hours, depending on your slow cooker.

After an hour or two, taste for seasoning. If the broth is not as rich as you would like, a bouillon cube or two can be added for more flavor.

Variation: If desired, add 2 to 3 cups of diced leftover turkey or chicken about an hour before serving.

Non-Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

You may be starting to see a trend here: almost all my vegetable soups start out with lots of onion, garlic, usually celery (unless there is none in the refrigerator) and carrots. After these, the directions you can go are almost endless. Always check out your produce drawer and freezer to see what is available to throw in and don't be afraid to experiment.

1/2 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced
1/4 bell pepper, diced (or use dried bell pepper)
chicken or turkey stock—about 2 to 4 cups, depending on what you have
water
3-4 c black beans (2 15 oz cans if not using beans you have soaked and cooked yourself)
10 oz frozen chopped spinach
2 t cumin
1 t Cajun seasoning
1 t oregano
2 t cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions and carrots in a little oil or fat skimmed off the broth, until the onions are translucent and the carrots are barely tender. Add the pepper, stock, beans and seasonings., along with enough water to make the consistency desired—more liquid for soup, a little less for a side dish or stew. Simmer for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to blend. Taste for seasoning and add the spinach about 15 minutes or so before serving. 

Alternative seasonings—if you would like to move away from the “Mexican” seasonings of cumin and oregano, substitute Italian seasoning and a mixture of basil, thyme, and rosemary instead.







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