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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Free Food!

If you have never made soup from your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey bones, you owe it to yourself to do it. I am an advocate of free food and when it is easy and delicious too, all the better.

The first time I saw this miracle was the year we had Thanksgiving dinner with a friend. As soon as we finished eating and had relaxed briefly, we cleared the table. She went into action, tearing all the meat off the bones and tossing the bones (along with any bits of fat or skin) into a large soup pot. Scrapings left in the roasting pan that did not make it into the gravy went in too, along with any juices from cooking the giblets or from the carving platter.

This was turned on to simmer for hours and eventually became a delicious turkey soup. I have been a convert ever since. One of the best soups I ever made was from the carcass of a turkey cooked on the grill and begged from the hostess, who was going to throw it away, from another Thanksgiving with friends. I have even brought home the carcass from Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws for making soup without having first made a turkey. Free food!

I now make soup stock from any kind of bones including those from beef or pork roasts and chicken bones - either from chicken cooked at home or fried chicken from the take out place. Sometimes I save them in the freezer until I have a large potful, sometimes I just cook up what I have and then I have enough stock to make gravy or a sauce. Here is how I do it.

After removing all the meat from the bones, toss the bones into your largest pot (break some of them to fit, if you have to, with a meat cleaver or a meat tenderizer hammer). Also add any bits of fat or skin and scrape any juices or drippings from the pan or the platter. I also add things like onion skins and peelings from the scrubbed vegetables I might have cooked with the meal - anything except those from the cabbage family like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, which will give the stock a strong, unpleasant flavor. The vegetable trimmings - everything from onion skins to carrot scrapings to celery trimmings - will add flavor and color to the stock.

Cover the stuff in the pot with water to cover, even filling it to within an inch of the brim. Add a few bay leaves and several pepper corns and turn the heat on to low. Allow the stock to simmer at the very lowest heat, hardly even shimmering. This will ensure a clear stock. Heavier boiling will cause it to be darker and cloudy. The low simmer extracts all the flavor and goodness from the bones. Allow it to cook several hours or all day long but leave enough time to cool it and to discard the bones and strain the stock.

Strain through cheesecloth lined colander for the clearest stock, and portion into tall narrow containers. The kind that Chinese take-out soup comes in. This allows the fat to congeal in a thicker layer that is easily removed. Chill the stock overnight in the fridge. If you plan to freeze it, remove the fat first. Otherwise, leave the fat layer on until you use the stock for soup or sauces.

I also save the fat for cooking things like hash brown, turkey hash or fried potatoes. It adds flavor and it's free! The stock and the fat will keep a day or two in the fridge and much longer in the freezer.

To make gravy, heat a couple tablespoons of the fat (or butter or olive oil) with an equal amount of flour over medium low heat. Cook, stirring with a whisk, for a minute or so. Add a cup or so of your stock, stirring with the whisk to avoid any lumps. Continue whisking and cooking until the gravy thickens and boils. Season with a little salt and pepper and dried herbs. You can also add a little milk for cream for a "country" gravy to serve over noodles, mashed potatoes or biscuits.

Quotable Quotes; in the category Talk Is Cheap!

"I live on good soup, not on fine words."

Moliere

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