Wring the Most Meals from Your Thanksgiving Turkey Carcass

Here's what's left after picking the meat off the bones:   broth, meaty pieces and bones.

Here’s what’s left after picking the meat off the bones: broth, meaty pieces and bones.

Thanksgiving is long gone of course, but the turkey lasts for many more days.  I love the traditional dinner and always make enough so we can repeat the feast several times before I have to get inventive and make a different meal.  We had turkey with trimmings for four days (when the gravy ran out) and pie for breakfast for another day or two after that.  We had turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce for lunch for five days.  This may sound boring, but we both love real roast turkey (not those packaged, saline infused cold cuts) and making Thanksgiving dinner is enough of a job, I welcome the time off from cooking.

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Turkey “Tetrazzini” with Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and carrot slaw

When the easily accessible meat has been used, there are still a few meals left in the carcass.  You only need to break it down to get at those morsels for soups and other dishes.  I have friends who put the carcass out for the crows and vultures, a very worthy action, but I am too much of a parsimonious Yankee to do that.  To break down the carcass, pull off the thigh bones and wings and put them into a large stockpot.  There is a natural joint at the base of the thigh that you can find by probing with a knife point, if it doesn’t come off easily.  (Push in the knife point and wiggle it around cutting the sinews that attach the joint until you can pull it loose.)  The body can be broken into two sections by cutting down through from the base of the ribs to the backbone, and if that isn’t small enough to fit in your stockpot, the carcass can be cut along the backbone, separating the “torso” and the “hips” into four pieces.  When all the pieces are in your stockpot fill to cover the bones with water and simmer it, covered, for about an hour.  Let it cool and separate the meat from the bones.  Set larger pieces of meat aside and save the smaller bits for soups.

When all was done, I had enough broth and turkey left over for four containers of turkey soup.

When all was done, I had enough broth and turkey left over for four containers of turkey soup.

It is amazing how much meat remains.  I had enough for two full meals and five containers of soup.  The first meal I made was Turkey “Tetrazzini,” a simplified version of the famous soprano’s chicken dish.  I sautéed onions, mushrooms and a little garlic together, added some of the reserved broth and some white wine, salt, pepper and herbs.  I reduced this to sauce consistency while boiling up some noodles, then added in some of the larger turkey pieces.  I like to add the noodles to the sauce and cook them together for a minute or two to marry the flavors.  The second meal was Turkey cacciatore style, which means “the way a hunter would make it.”  Presumably a hunter in the woods would be able to gather mushrooms for the sauce which also includes tomatoes, onions and garlic, etc.  I simplified this too, using some of the marinara sauce I canned this summer, adding more broth and reducing it after sauteing the mushrooms.   I added the turkey a couple of minutes before serving it over linguine.

For the soup, I used the remaining broth after straining it to be sure there were no bones.   Instead of thickening it with flour or something similar, I broke up leftover rolls and stuffing and used my hand blender to emulsify the broth after they had a chance to soften.  I then added salt & pepper, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and a parsnip.  For the starch I chose brown rice and I flavored it with herbs; parsley, sage and thyme.   We had it for lunch and I had four containers for the freezer.

Here's the Turkey Cacciatore, ready to serve.

Here’s the Turkey Cacciatore, ready to serve.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Denise Hughes said,

    You are so inventive. thanks for the meal suggestions.

    Like

  2. 3

    Marjorie said,

    That’s it! Next time we’re invited out for Thanksgiving dinner, I’m going to cook my own turkey sometime that week so that I can make soup particularly, and also have several more turkey dinners and sandwiches for lunches.

    Like


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