Friday, November 25, 2011

On Anti-Thanksgiving Pseudo-Asian Turkey Soup

After seeing this suggestion for turkey and ginger soup from Mark Bittman and that Tweet today about Food52's Turkey Pho, I thought the whole world might be in on this ginger turkey secret. I want in. I want a way to enjoy turkey after Thanksgiving that won't taste like the last eight sandwiches I had with turkey, cranberries, gravy and stuffing. And you know I've had eight sandwiches since dinner yesterday.

Reasons to make this soup:
1) If you have a turkey carcass, it's basically free.
2) It will not taste like Thanksgiving at all.
3) It will cure any cold you picked up from your relatives.
4) The broth, Oh!
5) Slurping is fun.
6) You won't need to leave your house. Hallelujah! Customize the bejeezus out of this pot of awesome. It'll still be awesome.

Gather up:
Turkey carcass
Pasta noodles
Soy sauce
Fish sauce
Leftover turkey

Since I am a terrible cook I haven't figured out how to cook everything in the same pan and have it all be perfectly done at the same time. I generally end up with everything overcooked and soggy while the last bit drags along. The fancy schmancy way you are served soup in fine restaurants then, has my name written all over it. How the waiter will bring you a bowl full of bits and a steaming crock of broth? They pour the broth on the bits and voila! Soup! The big secret, I figured out, is that this is a low-pressure way of ensuring every component of your soup is perfectly cooked without the pressure of keeping it hot. It also lets you work on your broth which is, of course, the star of the show.

First, make turkey stock. Boil your turkey carcass with a few peeled carrots, the inner stalks of a head of celery, half an onion or so and a handful of peppercorns. Boil gently for 1-4 hours. Strain into a large bowl without letting it tip into the drain. Trust me.

Next, pour the broth back in the pot, bring to a boil and put your noodles in to cook. Cook until al dente.
When the noodles are done, strain them out AND CATCH THE BROTH in the large bowl again. Back into the pot. Bring it back up to a boil and let it cook down while you cook the other ingredients. Let the noodles wait in the strainer. Don't worry; we'll heat them back up.

Since leftovers can be finicky, this recipe is at best, inexact. In the end, you want about a full cup of turkey and vegetables, plus a serving of noodles, and about two cups of broth per bowl.

In a non-stick pan, pour about a tablespoon of canola oil and press a large clove of garlic into it. Add a sprinkle of cayenne just to wake things up. Cook for 10 seconds on medium-high heat, moving the garlic around.
Add the turkey, salt and pepper, and cook until turkey just starts to brown. This will take most of the Thanksgiving turkey taste out of the turkey. Divide and place in bowls.

In the same pan, add the cabbage. Salt, and add a tablespoon of turkey stock to help the cabbage steam. Cook until it begins to brown. Divide and place in bowls.

Repeat with unsalted grated carrots (no need for stock here though; carrots are plenty moist).
Isn't this great? All the bits go in and wait until you're ready. No loss in texture or flavor, no soggy carrots, no dry meat. At this point, fry your noodles just a little bit too. What the hell. I like them a little browned and chewy and we're on the backend of the most gluttonous day of the year and we're trying to stave off illness.

Now check on your stock. Remember, you want about a cup and a half to two cups per person, so keep boiling the stock down until you're at that volume. When you are, for two servings, grate a good tablespoon of fresh ginger into your broth (you can use dried if you like instead).

I keep my ginger peeled and wrapped in the freezer. It keeps for at least a year (apparently). The only thing I should warn you about is that when you are going to town grating that nub on a microplane grater, your fingers and thumb will be numbed by the frozen root. If you are not paying attention, you will have thumb soup.

Add a tablespoon or two of soy sauce, and start shaking in the fish sauce. I needed a half an inch of raw ginger root, grated, two tablespoons of soy sauce and a teaspoon of fish sauce for two bowls. You will need to adjust your ratios depending on what flavors you have in your turkey stock. Keep a spoon ready, and keep tasting that brothy awesomeness until your leg involuntarily kicks and your fist involuntarily pumps. "Pow!"

Sriracha will add a wonderful bite, but know that many of the nuances of the broth will be lost if you overdo it with the hot stuff. A little dribble made mine amazing, and I put it on the table just in case. (And of course I used more at the table.)
Dizzy with brothy anticipation.

Yes, you got that right. Fry every component of the soup. Use American leftovers with Italian pasta for an Asian soup. Boil a whole pot of turkey stock into two bowls of soup. Cover it in soy sauce and fish sauce and Sriracha. You'll never guess you had no idea what you were doing. You'll heal the sick. Feed the hungry. And make a magical meal that, in a refreshing change from this weekend's usual leftover fare, will not taste like Thanksgiving turkey.

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