Suzi's Blog

Turkey Stock from the Leftover Carcass: A Thanksgiving Treasure

turkey carcass

Your Thanksgiving meal is done. The football games are over. Guests are gone. Cleanup, sadly, is necessary.

Here is what NOT to do. Don’t throw away that leftover turkey carcass. Even if most of the meat is devoured, save the carcass. You are about to make quarts and quarts of turkey stock for soup, sauces, and to give you a head start on the stock you’ll need for that Christmas turkey!

First, remove any seriously large chunks of meat remaining on turkey. I’m talking about the ingredients for sandwiches tomorrow. But do not try to pick off every last pieces of meat. A purely naked carcass will produce a less rich stock. And, personally, I think dark meat scraps produce a better stock and they are already snuggly hidden on the bottom anyway.

Break the carcass into a half dozen pieces, using a knife at first and then just crushing with your hand. Use a mitt or glove to protect yourself from turkey bone shards. The last place you want to be late on Thanksgiving Day is the Emergency Room. You’ll wait for hours as they deal with those idiots who just attempted their first deep frying experiment.

Yesterday’s blog was about making stock from giblets. This stock is decidedly different, but honestly they are both wonderful and you’ll enjoy them equally.

Full Carcass Turkey Stock

Yield: 4 to 5 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 1 meaty turkey carcass, chopped into large pieces
  • 2 medium carrots (do not peel), but cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 large yellow onion (do not peel), cut in half
  • 2 large ribs celery, with leaves, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

Preparation:

Put the chopped turkey carcass in an 8-quart stockpot and add cold water to cover, leaving 2 inches of space at the top of the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Using a large spoon or soup skimmer, skim off the brown foam that rises to the top.

After 5 minutes or so, the foam will become white, and no more skimming will be necessary. Add the carrots, onion, celery, peppercorns, bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. Partially cover the pot and adjust the heat so the stock barely simmers. Simmer the stock for at least 2 but preferably 4 hours, adding water, if necessary, to keep the bones covered

Source: The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan

Gravy Making Tips

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Earlier this week I blogged Arrows Roast Turkey. I have a big bird in the oven now and is following that recipe to the letter. That recipe has gravy instructions which are terrific.

Still, many people feel rushed or overwhelmed by the time the turkey is out, carving is imminent and somehow perfect gravy has to be constructed. Do you lack gravy confidence?

Let me give you a bit more detail about gravy construction. I’ll try to make it easier to understand how easy is really is to make gravy that is truly lip smacking.

In a nutshell, here’s what you are going to do. You are going to make a roux — yes, just like in Cajun feasting — then add some flavored liquid, cook to allow it all to thicken, and eat. That’s all you have to do.

A roux? A roux is just a cooked mixture of fat and flour. By cooking the two ingredients you create a substance, the roux, that simply loves additional liquid. The cooked roux literally unwinds in the liquid and thickens it — my thanks to Alton Brown for the food science here.

There is one key secret: the roux is made in the same pan you roasted the turkey in. When you lift the turkey out, don’t dare clean that pan. Pour the liquid out into a measuring cup, or better yet one of those fat separator utensils.

With the liquid pour out, that roasting pan is literally littered with flavoring bits. They are the third, “secret” ingredient for you roux.

One last tip for you, when you make the roux, and are cooking the fat and flour, the longer you cook the darker and more flavorful the roux becomes. Cook for about 10 minutes and you have a “white roux.” Cook for 20 minutes or more and you have “brick” roux. White tastes fine. Brick will probably bring tears to your eyes. I made a brick roux once that I still remember, and have never been able to duplicate.

But there is a tradeoff. The longer you cook, the darker the roux becomes, the more flavor it will have, but the less thick gravy it will make. That over-the-top brick roux is only 25% as effective as a white roux at thickening. So, you need to ponder how much flavor you want versus how thick you want your gravy to become. And of course, as you cook the roux and it becomes darker, there is no way to “uncook it” to get back to a lighter color. Gravy making is a one way street.

This is the key reason why you can make gravy a hundred times and always end up something good but a tad unique. You haven’t failed. You’ve just been part of a chemistry experiment.

Let’s cook.

You will need:

  • Fat from the liquid you poured off: 1 tablespoon for each cup of gravy
  • Flour: 1-2 tablespoons for each tablespoon of fat
  • Flavored liquid, such as turkey stock: 1 cup for each tablespoon of fat

Decide on how much gravy you want. For each cup of gravy, use one tablespoon of the fat that is sitting in that measuring cup or separator you pour the pan juice in. Put the fat into your pan, turn heat to medium, and begin stirring.

You can begin to add flour. Here, you’ll find recipes differ substantially. Typically, it’s one tablespoon of flour for each tablespoon of fat you’ve already added. But other recipes will say a tablespoon and a half or even two tablespoons. More flour should give a thicker gravy. Regular AP flour is fine, but Alton Brown recommends cake or pastry flour!

Cook the fat and flour over medium heat, constantly stirring. If your roasting pan is large, you may want to place it over two burners and have both them going. Keep stirring until you reach the color you desire. When the mixture bubbles, you are “done.” If the roux is not yet at the color you want, lower the heat a bit, keep cooking to change the color and adjust the heat so that you do get to a bubbling liquid.

Now add your flavored liquid, one cup for each tablespoon of fat you added. In that measuring cup where you put the pan liquids, the fat has floated to the top and you’ve used some of that fat to start the roux. Pour off the rest of the fat, and use the liquid in the bottom of the cup as a starting point. You’ll need additional liquid. You could use water, but you shouldn’t. You want chicken or turkey stock.

Cook and stir. Slowly let the mixture come to a boil. It will have thickened along the way. Add salt and pepper to your personal taste.

Remove from the heat. Serve and savor.

Source: inspired by Holly Garrison in The Thanksgiving Cookbook and Alton Brown in I’m Just here for the Food.