Keep That Carcass: How to Turn Your Holiday Leftovers Into Delicious Stocks and Soups

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I hate letting things go to waste – especially when it comes to time, money, and food. Hopefully, most of you share that same belief. After all, being wasteful is not a quality most gentlemen strive to achieve.

Fortunately my wife appreciates my frugalness with money and time. And the food part? Well, let’s just say that she feels I take things to the extreme. You see, in my kitchen, my freezer is filled with bones, scraps, stems, sticks, rinds, and other mysteries known only to yours truly.

Over the past few years, we’ve spent a lot of time here on AoM teaching you the fundamentals when it comes to cooking. From knife skills, to cast-iron cooking, to perfectly roasting a chicken– these are all skills a man needs to have in his culinary tackle box. So as I was casually perusing the grocery aisles the other day, I uncovered a culinary crime that I had to share with all you loyal readers.

Since it’s the holidays, folks were stocking up on all the essentials: turkeys, rib roasts, stuffing, vegetables, pie crusts, and especially cooking stock. After all, a bit of stock or broth is called for in almost every holiday recipe. Four cups of store-bought stock costs over $5 bucks in most places. Gentlemen, it shouldn’t be so.

Perhaps I’m partly to blame, as I’ve never detailed how easy it is to create your own stocks at home. And there’s no better time to learn than now. Christmas’ turkey carcass or leftover standing rib roast can turn into a luscious turkey or beef stock. The pork shoulder cooked on New Year’s Day can create a delicious stock for other soups and stews (and even chili!). Of course, all of that cold weather and hectic holiday travel calls for a comforting bowl of homemade chicken soup. Better yet, you don’t have to use it all right now – as these stocks keep well frozen for months in your freezer. Just pop ‘em out and thaw when needed. In this post, I’ll lay out how to make stock from four types of meat, and then give you a recipe with which to use that stock. Win-win!

So this year, I encourage you to keep ‘stock-ing’ through the holidays. Spend a bit of time to save what you typically discard and enjoy good eats and cost savings in the New Year!

Basic Chicken Stock

I like to pick up whole chickens when on sale at the market, often purchasing them for less than $1 per pound. Though most folks use the bones or carcasses when creating their stocks, I often just slowly braise the whole bird. I remove the cooked chicken for use in soups or stews, or turn it into a quick chicken salad for use throughout the week. Either way, this is a simple, foolproof way to perform double duty – cook a chicken while creating stock.

  • 1 4 lb. whole chicken
  • 3 carrots, cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 8 cups water

Add all ingredients into a stockpot and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 2 hours, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Strain ingredients, discarding the vegetables and setting chicken aside. Allow the stock to completely cool and chill overnight in the fridge. Skim the fat off the surface, discard, and use stock immediately or freeze for later use.

Matt’s Avgolemono Soup

Lately I’ve been stealing a page out of your Greek grandmother’s cookbook with this lemony chicken and orzo soup. Though this dish is typically prepared without meat, you can throw in the reserved chicken if you want a heartier version. The key to making this dish silky smooth and perfect is tempering the egg appropriately. You want to slowly add the hot stock to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to create a smooth texture. Do it too fast, and your eggs will scramble – which won’t affect the flavor or ruin the dish – but your grandmother would be disappointed.

  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups orzo pasta
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 pinch fresh nutmeg

Bring stock to a slow boil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Add orzo pasta and cook for 5 minutes, remove from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, lemon juice, and nutmeg. While constantly stirring, slowly stream in about 3 cups of broth into the egg mixture – tempering the eggs slowly to bring them up to the same temperature as the stock. Add mixture into the Dutch oven and serve soup immediately.

Turkey Stock

Over Thanksgiving, my dad proudly smoked the family turkey on his beloved Big Green Egg. Needless to say, that bird was delicious, and I didn’t want that flavor to end. So, I threw the carcass into a pot and created a rich turkey stock. The next day, I made a big ole pot of turkey and sausage gumbo (below) – feeding the family again on the cheap. Simple, easy, and delicious.

  • 1 leftover turkey carcass, broken into smaller pieces
  • 3 carrots, cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 10 cups water

Add all ingredients into a stockpot and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 2 hours, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Strain ingredients, discarding the vegetables and carcass. Allow the stock to completely cool and chill overnight in the fridge. Skim the fat off the surface, discard, and use stock immediately or freeze for later use.

Turkey and Sausage Gumbo

Turkey leftovers get jazzed up in this hearty, Creole favorite. They key to making a great gumbo is all about the roux. Spend the time to slowly cook the roux as dark as you can stand it – without burning. That extra effort will yield rich, caramelized flavors that are sure to please the entire family – even if you are trying to kick out the in-laws!

  • 4 cups Andouille sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups fresh okra, washed with ends trimmed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 bell peppers, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 10 cups turkey stock, warmed
  • 4 cups leftover turkey meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups hot cooked rice

Preheat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add sausage and brown for 5-6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage to a plate; add okra and cook for another 6 minutes, or until slightly charred. Remove okra and combine oil and flour in the pot, reducing heat to low. Whisk oil and flour until combined, whisking constantly, until dark brown and caramel in color, 40-50 minutes. Add onions and peppers and sauté until tender, 10 minutes. Next add garlic, and sauté until just fragrant. Deglaze by adding tomatoes, followed by one cup of stock at a time, stirring to ensure everything is evenly incorporated. Bring mixture to a slow boil, adding sausage and okra back into the pot and simmering until tender, about 15 minutes. When okra is tender, add reserved turkey meat and heat through. Serve with hot cooked rice.

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