Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner & Turkey Noodle Soup

I’ve always been the Turkey Meister in our family, and Thanksgiving and New Year’s are favorite times of mine to get to work in the kitchen preparing and cooking a turkey! 🙂 My wife’s the Turkey Noodle Soup expert, and together we stretch the holiday meal to last as long as possible.  I’ve decided to explain the entire process of how we prepare the turkey and make homemade stock for lots of turkey noodle soup afterwards! 🙂

My focus on preparing an oven roasted turkey is simplicity, as opposed to photographic perfection, in order to enjoy a moist, succulent turkey dinner, and to prepare stock for the soup.  I follow the cooking directions on the turkey packaging, and trim all the extra skin and fat away from the turkey in order to have a clear broth after cooking with minimum fat.  We oven roast chicken the same way, minimizing the grease and making clean-up as easy as possible.

The rinsed turkey neck and giblets are brought to a boil in a pot with seasonings (salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, Season All and a bay leaf), and then quickly returned to low heat/simmer for an hour to prevent boil over on the stove top.  The broth is used for making turkey gravy, and the turkey neck and giblets are saved for making the soup stock.  The turkey’s tail and wing tips are removed separately and saved overnight in the refrigerator for making stock the next day.

I place poultry (turkey and chicken) on a bed of celery, carrots, quartered onions and two garlic cloves for oven roasting, and for the turkey we use a double layer of vegetables and a half cup of water to start the broth collection in the bottom of the roasting pan.  For oven roasting a chicken, we use a single layer of vegetables as a base under the bird and a little water just to cover the bottom of the roasting pan.  The vegetables release a clear, flavorful broth during cooking, and after removing the poultry’s extra skin and fat, there’s little fat remaining in the broth.

I wash and dry the cleaned turkey, loosening the skin all around the breast and rub the bird with Extra Light Olive Oil on and under the skin, before seasoning both the meat and skin afterwards.  The olive oil moistens the meat and skin, and holds the seasonings in place. This year we used the convection cooking feature of the oven, which shortened the cooking time by at least a half hour, and avoided having to tent the bird in the final stages of cooking.

I baste the turkey every 45 minutes while cooking, using melted butter and drippings to drizzle over and under the breast skin, as well as over the wings, drumsticks and thighs of the bird.  We use a baking sheet to support the turkey roasting pan, as it’s heavy (ours was a 14.5 pound turkey), and the drippings are very hot, so use extreme caution when removing the turkey pan from the oven and placing it back in.  Also, make sure your turkey roasting pan doesn’t have a hole in the bottom, or the drippings will leak out and create quite a hot and dangerous mess.

Once the turkey is finished cooking (based on the pop-out thermometer and digital meat thermometer reading), remove it from the bed of vegetables and broth, and tent it with aluminum foil for 20 minutes until dinner.  Strain the vegetables through a colander (the spent celery can be mashed in the colander to add extra flavor to the broth), and carefully pour the hot broth from the turkey roasting pan into a large pot, setting aside a portion of the broth to slightly moisten the turkey pieces after the meal for refrigerating.

I peel and cube the potatoes early on in the process and let them soak in a large pot of cool water, until bringing them to a boil on the stove top.  My wife manages the turkey gravy, which isn’t hard to make from scratch, but first read a number of online recipes ahead of time, to be ready to make it as the rest of the meal is coming together.  She also warms the cranberry sauce (a mixture of canned whole cranberries, a little fresh orange juice, and some grated orange zest), and microwaves a pouch of vegetables ~ while I boil, drain and mash the potatoes to the right consistency with warm milk, melted butter, salt, and a little nutmeg, and carve the turkey.  With any luck, the meal all comes together within a five minute window time frame of final preparations ~ and then it’s time to serve it up! 🙂

After the meal, and during the cleanup process, I remove all the edible meat from the turkey carcass, and save all the bones in a bowl with the turkey neck, giblets, tail and wing tips to refrigerate overnight.  I chop the salvaged meat into smaller portions, and moisten it as needed with a little turkey broth set aside earlier.  Seal the pieces of turkey meat in airtight containers and/or freeze in portions for turkey sandwiches later.  A good portion of the turkey meat will be set aside in the refrigerator to add to the turkey noodle soup when the time comes.

The next day or two later, place the refrigerated turkey giblet broth, turkey drippings, turkey neck, giblets, tail and wing tips, salvaged bones, and fresh vegetables ~ celery, carrots, onions, leeks, parsley, a garlic clove, seasonings, and two bay leaves and a few peppercorns in a metal egg for later removal ~ into a large stock pot, and bring to a boil.  Once a boil is reached, reduce the heat and simmer for a good eight hours or so until cooked down, and then discard the turkey bones and pieces, and spent vegetables.

You now have a nice, rich soup stock for making your turkey noodle soup, but first it must be cooled and refrigerated overnight.  We divided the stock over a couple of pots placed on cooling elements to help cool down the hot stock, but if it’s cold outside, you can cover the pot and sit it on the back porch to cool quickly.  Don’t let the stock sit out at room temperature any longer than necessary before refrigerating.  Once cooled, you can freeze the stock for making soup later, or refrigerate overnight to make soup the next day.  If your stock has a layer of congealed turkey fat on the surface once cooled, simply spoon off the fat layer and discard in the garbage ~ never down the sink drain.

For making soup, first chop the vegetables (celery, carrots, onions and leeks) and saute right in the pot you’ll use to make the soup. Once sauteed, add in the stock you’ve refrigerated, small pieces of turkey, season to taste, and heat to serving temperature on the stove top.  We cook our wide egg noodles separately fresh for each meal in the microwave to then add into the soup, and garnish with chopped parsley when serving.  You can also add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and purchased chicken stock as desired to lengthen the soup over more meals.

That’s the entire process we use for preparing our holiday turkey dinner, as well as stock, turkey noodle soup, and turkey sandwiches for many more meals to follow.  Here’s a photo gallery of our efforts this past Thanksgiving in reverse order, from turkey noodle soup to preparing the turkey ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

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