Thanksgiving Stock Options: Don’t Toss That Carcass

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Credit: Flickr/Marisa | Food in Jars

In my book, the very best Thanksgiving recipe is one you don’t start cooking until after everyone’s finished dessert, and don’t taste until a day or even month after the guests have gone.

I’m talking about turkey stock.

On Thanksgiving, many millions of Americans will carve their bird, pack leftover breast meat into the fridge and (are you sitting down?) toss the precious carcass into the trash. But they could be making soup from a stone — or at least, from a pot of bones.

Simply pop that skeleton into a large pot, cover with water and set it to simmer;  you’ll be rewarded with a nourishing broth more delicious than any canned stand-in money can buy. Of course the stock will be even better if you toss in other things you might have pitched: onion skins, potato peels, fennel fronds, parsley stalks, parm heels, mushroom trimmings, celery bottoms, carrot tops. I keep a Ziploc in the freezer and stash all of the above in there when I’m cooking, so when I’ve got a bag of bones, too (or just accumulate a pot’s worth of produce trimmings), I simmer it all up on the stove. Bonus: turkey neck, feet, et al., straight from the bag of guts.

And don’t forget wine. Any dregs left in the bottoms of bottles — or even unfinished glasses, since it’ll be boiled for hours anyway — I pour into the pot. The acidity adds extra flavor and helps leach calcium out of the bones and into your stock, leaving vitamins in the pharmaceutical dust. After several hours at the gentlest simmer, strain, cool, skim and enjoy by the soul-healing mug, or freeze in quart containers to make any soup transcendent in the cold months ahead.

If you’re too tired to bother after doing the Thanksgiving dishes, you can plop it all in a Crock-Pot to simmer overnight, or simply stash that carcass in the freezer to mess with in a day, week or month. And if you’re a guest at someone else’s table tonight, bring a plastic bag. At the end of the evening when everyone else is vying for packed-up pie, ask instead for the carcass. I doubt anyone will fight you for it, the fools.

Perhaps to make Americans aware of their overlooked stock options, someone should produce a PSA to air during the Macy’s parade. I propose a MasterCard riff.

Turkey bones: free. Onion skins: free. Tap water: free. Real stock: Priceless.

Betsy Bradley

Elizabeth L. Bradley writes about New York City history and culture. She hopes to find Tiffany blue dragees in her Christmas stocking this year.

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