I hope that all of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had a wonderful one. I, for one, am glad it’s over. I don’t know about you, but for me, the Holidays are a mixed bag. Between all the shopping, prepping and cooking, there is so much work (and stress) leading up to the big day. Then, when you finally do get to sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor, all you can think about is that huge mess left in the kitchen and how many loads in the dishwasher it will take to get it under control. And, God forbid the rest of your dining companions don’t gush and swoon enough over your food after all of the hours and hours you spent slaving over it! You can then feel both inadequate and resentful at the same time. Did I mention that I’m a Type A personality? And, a hopeless perfectionist? In any event, it isn’t until the last pot is scrubbed and the leftovers are safely tucked away in their Tupperware containers that I can take a deep breath and relax. For me, that’s when the fun begins. That’s when I start thinking about what I’m going to conjure up with all the leftovers.
I sincerely hope that none of you ever, ever throw away the turkey carcass after your Thanksgiving feast. I’m kind of ambivalent about the turkey itself, but I always make sure we have one, because those slow roasted bones make the most lovely rich and flavorful stock. You can use that stock for all kinds of different recipes, but my favorite thing to make with it is a big pot of nurturing, restorative soup.
Cooking up a batch of turkey soup is a welcome respite from the frazzled frenzy of putting together a holiday meal. It’s cathartic – almost like therapy. And, it’s a no brainer. You just drop the carcass in a big stock pot, add some vegetable chunks, fill the pot with water and let it simmer a few hours while you drag all of the Christmas decorations down from the attic. Or in my case, while you nag your husband to do it as his a$$ is usually glued to the sofa watching football. Sigh…..
My starch of choice for homemade soup is pastina or some other kind of small pasta. I always have some in my pantry, it cooks quickly and hey – I’m Italian! This time, however, I decided to add barley. Barley does take a bit longer to cook, but I love its faint nuttiness and slightly chewy texture. It holds up really nicely to a bolder, more robust soup like this one.
With Christmas right around the corner, there’s just a small window of time before the lunacy begins again. So, do yourself a favor and make a big old pot of turkey barley soup, put on your fuzzy slippers and relax a bit while you still can!
Turkey Barley Soup
1 turkey carcass
1 large, sweet onion, quartered, studded with 6 whole cloves
3 carrots, rinsed, scrubbed and chopped into large chunks
3 ribs celery with leaves, rinsed, scrubbed and chopped into large chunks
Handful of fresh parsley
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3-4 cups cooked barley
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese for sprinkling (optional)
Remove any turkey meat left on the carcass. Set aside to add to the soup later or save for another use.
Put the carcass into a large stock pot and cover with cold water by an inch. Add the studded onion quarters, carrots, celery, parsley and peppercorns.
Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to a simmer. Skim off any foamy, icky stuff that collects on the surface. Simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. Then, simmer partially covered for another hour. If your stock needs a little more flavor, you can add a bouillon cube or some canned turkey or chicken broth.
Remove the bones and vegetables from the pot and strain the stock through a chinois or fine mesh strainer. Rinse out the stockpot and pour the stock back into it – or if you have someone else to do the dishes, use a clean pot.
Rinse the celery and carrots, and slice into bite-sized pieces. At this point, you can add additional fresh or frozen vegetables as well. Kale, escarole, and zucchini are nice choices. Bring stock back up to a simmer until the vegetables are tender.
Take some of the reserved turkey meat, shred it into bite sized pieces and add to the pot. Stir in the cooked barley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle with some grated cheese, if desired, and serve hot.
Makes 8-10 meal-sized servings.