A few years ago I saw a sign next to the gate of a fenced rural garden: Dear Deer. It’s almost Thanksgiving and it doesn’t have to be turkey this year. KEEP OUT! Funny story. But deer soup, not so much.
Turkey soup, definitely. A bowl with seasonal produce, kale and squash, some barley, swimming in the broth of a turkey or chicken . . . healthy food, not rich, but seems so. Nice balance for December’s culinary overkill, of which I’m a big fan by the way.
But first, the drama.
Roasting the turkey this year was a slapstick movie. Classic. Oven went berserk, temperatures completely out of whack up into the many hundreds of degrees we think. Within minutes the turkey’s wings were black, smoke billowed from the oven and through the kitchen. Once we got the oven turned off, its alarm stopped, our heart rate back to normal and rid of the first wave of smoke, we did what any hungry, desperate cook would have done on Thanksgiving. We covered the turkey with foil and went back in. Courageously or stupidly, we tentatively turned the oven back on for 5 minutes – it went sky high again, we turned it off and let it calm down for 5 minutes and then turned it back on, and so on until the turkey was done.
We gave up on hoping for delicious, moist and golden. We just wanted it cooked. A rare bird, in this case, is not the desired compliment.
So, between 1:30 and 4:30 this is what we did, oven on, oven off, cooks up and down. Turkey was done at exactly the time we’d planned in the first place, it was beautifully golden, crispy-skinned and the meat moist. What can I say? We’ve discovered a new method of roasting that keeps the hosts in motion all afternoon and therefore able to eat more turkey and trimmings?
Repair person arrived Saturday morning, repairs completed a few days later and vacation fund diminished, but the good news is that our annual prime rib feast is coming soon and we’re oven ready.
So anyway . . . making the broth which leads to the soup.
As usual the almost picked clean turkey carcass went into a big pot the next day, along with a large quartered onion, celery and carrots, sprigs of rosemary and thyme, bay leaf and sage and 2 1/2 quarts of water. Big sprinkle of salt, let it simmer with lid on for two and a half hours. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Same ingredients in smaller amounts for a chicken broth.
Pour the finished broth through a sieve into a large bowl. Discard all the soup ‘trimmings’ and use only the clear, delicate broth. Freeze extra in quart containers, but first have a bowl of seasonal soup that is killer. And right out of the backyard or local farmers market. Whichever. While the broth cooks, roast any squash you like until it’s tender. Cook 1 – 2 cups of barley in a separate pot, 3:1 water to barley and whatever seasoning sounds good. You could certainly add 1/2 – 1 cup of uncooked barley to the strained broth and cook it in the broth. Regular barley, as opposed to the quick-cooking variety, takes 40-45 minutes to cook and doubles in volume. When it’s tender enough to chew, but with a little bite, pour all of it, including any extra water, into the pot of turkey broth.
Turkey-Barley Soup with Kale & Squash
For four servings: prepare 2 – 3 cups of kale, stripped off its stalk, rolled into a tight bundle and finely cut or shredded, (chiffonade), a bowl of leftover bite-sized bits of turkey (optional) and the cooked squash. Now put together a PNW winter’s soup that is Pho-like in its construction. Into the bottom of each soup bowl, place a big handful of the kale chiffonade. Pour simmering, steaming broth and barley into the bowl, covering the kale – let it sit for a minute. Piping hot broth cooks the kale. Then add 5 or 6 big teaspoons of still warm, or rewarmed, cooked squash to each bowl along with bits of turkey if you wish. Garnish with chopped sage and thyme.
A lighthearted December meal, pun intended. Season’s Eatings.