turkey soup | post-feast or anytime

for Eden

I sincerely believe the best reason to roast a turkey is the soup that follows. I like turkey just fine but turkey soup? I have no words. Not one to really describe how comforting and yet divine a good homemade turkey soup is. From the aroma as the broth cooks to the last sip of that broth when the bowl is empty, there is nothing quite like it.

Posting a recipe for such a humble and beloved bowl of food may not be strictly necessary but sometime a roadmap is helpful. I offer this in that spirit. Turkey soup is never exactly the same from my kitchen; sometimes it is full of noodles, other times barley or rice or potatoes. Often I add broccoli. But always onions, celery, thyme - and usually carrots and parsley. Like I said - a roadmap. A direction to go, a place to start, to gain confidence that you cannot mess up a good pot of fresh turkey broth.

I start of course by making the broth. There are any number of recipes for making broth but this is mine. After the turkey is carved and quite clean I put the carcass in a large pot and cover it with water. Toss in an onion that has been been quartered, 3 or 4 stalks of celery along with some celery leaves, 2 large carrots (scrubbed and quartered), and a few sprigs of thyme. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cover and simmer for at least 3 hours. The longer it simmers the more goodness you get out of the bones - and there is a lot of goodness in there! When you judge that it has simmered enough, remove from the heat and let cool for about 30 minutes. Strain the solids from the broth and discard. At this point unless I am making soup for a large crowd I portion it into quart (4 litre) containers and freeze the broth for use later - other soups and recipes that call for broth, or simply to enjoy as a 'bone broth'.

Don't be afraid to add a little water at the end of the cooking if you feel like quite a bit of the broth has evaporated - just taste and adjust.

basic turkey soup pattern

4 cups turkey broth
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced 
1 Tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup chopped curly parsley
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 cup of dried pasta or noodles (any shape you fancy)
2 cups chopped turkey meat
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pot saute the onions and celery in the butter for a few minutes - just until beginning to be tender. Add the broth and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add the carrots, pasta and turkey. Cook until the pasta is done and the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Note: Because the broth is not salted you will want a generous amount of salt (roughly 2 tsp) or the soup will taste really flat. If you are using a good sea salt you needn't be afraid of the salt. (also along that line, if you are not eating a diet of mostly processed and refined foods salt is probably not an issue. Excuse me while I climb off my soap-box and put it away. lol)

If you want to use rice or barley instead of the pasta decrease the amount to 1/2 cup. If broccoli is sounding good to you and you have some in the fridge, about 3 cups chopped is perfect. A drop or two of sriracha sauce makes a nice change on occasion or a grating of good Parmesan. 


in Flanders Field...

November 11 | Remembrance Day. As a child in school I made red construction paper poppies with the other children in my class. I went to the school assembly and stood at attention with my classmates at precisely 11:00 AM for one perfect solemn minute. I learned the words to the poem written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae "In Flanders Field", seeing in my mind a tranquil field of beautiful poppies - knowing that what we were commemorating was solemn, even sacred, but not beginning to understand the depth and breadth of commitment, sacrifice, and love entailed. Even now, decades later I feel I only glimpse fleetingly the honour of those who have served so selflessly throughout history to protect the life, freedom, and liberties of loved ones and beloved country. 
The following letter is a very tender and articulate expression of love, faith, and sacrifice written by Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah. He died a week later, at the First Battle of Bull Run. He was only 32. As I read it I cannot believe other than that it echoes the feelings, hopes, and thoughts of countless others. I am profoundly grateful that my father, my sons, my husband have not been among those who have written similar letters home, and I am even more humbly grateful for those who have fought (my father-in-law, uncles and great uncles among them) that my close and dearly loved ones have not needed to.
This November 11 I pledge to think more deeply as I remember all the brave men and women who have served and now serve that I may live a life of freedom and plenty in this wonderful land of Canada. I pledge to honour them with the choices I make and the life I live.
BallouPortraitCamp Clark, Washington
My very dear Sarah: 
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.



sourdough stuffing | post-Thanksgiving

Here in Canada we have celebrated the harvest and given thanks for many and manifest blessings. In our house that celebration demands (a word chosen with deliberation) a fairly strict menu. I sometimes peruse with longing the many offerings for variation on the Thanksgiving feast theme - some verging on exotic, others simply needlessly complicated - but I have stopped suggesting we add anything to the table for that meal. Stopped because the table is full as is with dishes that not one person in our crowd can stand to see replaced or changed. Call it tradition - and happy family. Nothing wrong with any of that. So although in one sense our menu is strict, there is nothing at all austere about it. It is simply very well defined.

One of the dishes that I have played with in the past is the stuffing. Recipes abound that are so enticing to me and I have tried more than a few of those ideas but in the last four or five years I have settled on a simple sourdough stuffing that is universally approved and devoured on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing about it is wild and crazy except the straight-up goodness. Any bread that is a day or two old is very good in this recipe but a nice mild sourdough loaf makes all the difference in the world we think. I cross my fingers every year that I can harvest the fresh herbs from my garden and most years I can - even on the years where we have had more than a few frosts the herbs bravely struggle on to the last. I realize that is not an option for everyone but it is sure fun for me.

We have decided that we all prefer stuffing that is not cooked in the turkey so that is the way I do it but this stuffing works beautifully either way. The huge advantage of not stuffing the bird is that it roasts a lot faster and stays more moist - seems like a win/win to me. Just pop the stuffing into the oven as you pull the turkey out to rest and the timing is perfect.

I offer no picture of the stuffing after baking for the simple reason that at that point there was no waiting for photos to be taken and after the meal there was not a crumb left. It looks pretty much like the first photo but nicely golden.

The celebration of Thanksgiving may be done for this year but truly giving thanks and finding the joy of gratitude daily is always before us. The list of things for which I am grateful is long but among those at the top of that list: faith, hope, family (each and every wonderful, weird, beautiful, strong person from littlest Margo to David), health, friendship, my garden, my home, and the joy of sharing all of that. Thanksgiving may be behind me but Christmas is ahead. I love this season of joy and sharing, of counting blessings and then desiring to share them. Whenever or however you celebrate your gratitude may it be with good food and loved ones - and maybe some sourdough stuffing.

(As I proof-read this I have to wonder why we don't just have stuffing more often? Like right now.)

sourdough stuffing

10 cups sourdough bread, torn into smallish pieces (about 1 1/2 standard size boules)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
4 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups turkey broth*
2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

In a large skillet melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook until it is beginning to become tender. Remove from heat.

Put the torn bread 'cubes' into a large bowl. Add the parsley, sage, thyme, cranberries, and pecans. Add the butter, celery, onion mix and toss. Pour the turkey broth over, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Bake (covered) in a buttered 9x13 pan or ceramic ceramic casserole dish for 20 -30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

* I make a broth with the turkey neck, a carrot, 1/4 of an onion and about 3 cups water that I simmer for an hour or so early in the day of the turkey feast. Strain the solids out and it is good to go. If you prefer to use a canned chicken broth, adjust the amount of salt to about 1 tsp.