For both Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve this year, I roasted a turkey.
For Thanksgiving, my bird was roasted in the oven, and for Christmas Eve, I cooked it on my propane grill, where it was infused with oak wood smoke.
These are the only two days of the year I typically consider cooking a bird of this size, but really, it’s something I should prepare more often.
Both of my turkeys this year were under 12 pounds, a manageable size to work with, while still large enough for leftovers for my family of four: leftovers for sandwiches, turkey tostadas and, of course, the infamous turkey soup, a bowl of which I’m enjoying at this very moment.
When it comes to preparing the turkey itself for cooking, I find a 24 to 36-hour brining lends to the moistest bird possible. Start the process with an approximate ratio of 6 quarts of water, 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar. The sweet and salty notes penetrate quite nicely throughout the meat.
I also usually add a couple of cut-up oranges and lemons, a whole head of coarsely chopped garlic, peppercorns, some quartered onions or shallots, and a bunch of fresh thyme sprigs to create an even more complex flavor profile.
All of this is done in a basic cooler, which is very well-sanitized in advance, then placed in the refrigerator until a couple of hours before cooking. Roasted and rested, the results have been quite delicious this year.
The next day, the soup preparation begins, using the bones from the bird and an array of seasonal vegetables to produce a very flavorful broth. With fresh leeks now in season, I find those are key in the results, both in building the stock and in the final product. What vegetables go into your soup is really up to your preference.
Below is what I had on hand this year for my turkey soup. This same process can easily be down with a whole roasted leftover chicken as well.
TURKEY LEEK SOUP
Leftover precooked turkey (or chicken), 3 cups reserved meat set aside
3 large leeks
1-2 heads garlic
8 medium carrots
1 medium head celery
3 medium potatoes (I used a white flesh sweet potato)
6-7 sprigs fresh thyme (can also use parsley and or oregano)
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
Fresh cracked pepper
Remove as much meat from the precooked turkey as possible and set aside. Place the remaining bones in a large pot. Cut the lower white portion of the leeks into rounds and float in cold water to remove sediment.
Cut the top green portion of the leeks into large pieces, then rinse to remove sediment and place in a pot with the bones. Add one head of your garlic, leaving cloves whole, into the pot and mince the other head (maybe about 6 cloves) and set aside.
Peel your carrots and place the peelings into the pot, and dice the remaining carrots and set aside.
Chop off the leafy portion of the celery and place it into the pot, and dice and set aside the remaining stalks. Peel and dice the potato and set aside. Add the thyme sprigs, seasoned salt and cracked pepper to the pot.
Fill the pot with water, leaving about 1 inch of empty space at the top. Place over the stovetop and bring to a light boil, then reduce to a very low simmer. Cover and simmer for about 4 hours.
Once done, strain out the broth for use in your final soup. You can remove any additional meat from the bones and set aside for the final soup as well. Place all veggies that were set aside into the strained broth and place over low heat.
Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender. Mix in turkey meat to warm. Add additional seasoning as desired to taste.
Yield: Serves 8.