For a long time it bothered me that we’d never had turkey presented in its full glory—just out of the oven to be ceremoniously carved for the masses. My family has always precarved the turkey for the Thanksgiving spread. A lot has to do with the fact that the turkey isn’t picture-perfect beautiful when it comes out of the oven.
I guess we never had much choice but to precarve, especially since it’d look odd to be serving a one-legged turkey with most of its skin gone. There’s nothing like nibbling on the crispy skin once it comes out of the oven. And somehow in our family, a leg would go missing while the stuffing is being removed. (My brother always managed to steal away a turkey leg to nibble on while he’d watch football.)
Some years ago, I remember watching a program where a food artist showed how she’d prepare a turkey to be used for a commercial. She would take a frozen turkey, use a hand steamer to soften the surface, baste it and cook it in the oven until it’s beautifully browned outside. However, the inside is still frozen. It made me feel better to see that turkeys normally don’t look glamorous when coming out of the oven, especially if you expect it to be fully cooked.
Another reason to precarve is so one could get started with making the turkey soup—which has abundant uses for the next few days. One of my favorite leftover dishes that my mom makes is turkey dduk gook (rice dumpling soup). Usually dduk gook is made with beef soup stock, but the turkey dduk gook is absolutely divine. In fact, next to the stuffing and the desserts, I think turkey dduk gook is my third favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.
The turkey soup base can be used for other things, like making the base for turkey pot pie, turkey noodle soup (especially if finding frozen rice dumpling ovalettes is difficult in your location), and if you choose to reduce it further to stock, it can be used to help flavor other dishes such as more yummy stuffing or stir-frying vegetables.
Even though I won’t be officially cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, I am still thinking of cooking an abbreviated version—just so we can have the turkey carcass to make soup. (Of course, I have to make stuffing to go with the turkey…) I’ve decided to leave it to the fates. If there happens to be fresh turkey available today or tomorrow at my local Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or Sunset Foods, I’ll buy it and make it for the family. If not, there’s always next year.
Turkey Soup Base
Water (enough to cover the bones and mostly fill up the biggest stock pot you own)
Turkey bones (ideally still with some of the meat bits on)
Peeled and sliced ginger (about size of thumb)
1 bulb of garlic (skin removed, cloves separated)
2 onions (peeled and sliced)
4 celery stalks (chopped)
4 carrots (peeled and chopped)
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper (to be added later to personal taste; my mom likes using white pepper for added zing; I like using sea salt best)
Set all the above ingredients to boil. While cooking, skim off foam and fat. After about 30 minutes, reduce heat to simmer. Plan on simmering soup for 2-3 hours. Make sure water level never goes below midlevel (if it gets low, add more water). Towards the end of cooking, add salt and pepper. Please keep in mind that the soup gets naturally saltier in time, so don’t add too much.
Strain out all the bones and vegetables and save the broth. You may choose to cover and put broth in a cool place for a little while to let the fat rise to the top, so you can skim it off.
Turkey dduk gook
Turkey soup broth
Shredded/coarsely chopped pieces of turkey
Dduk (frozen rice dumpling ovalettes from Korean/Asian grocery store)
Green onions (finely chopped—optional for garnish/final flavoring)
Egg (optional: to be cooked separately like omelette and julienned, or beaten and added into soup last minute ala egg drop soup)
Salt and pepper (if necessary)
Reheat turkey soup broth and bring to boil. While broth is heating up, thaw out rice dumplings in bowl of cold water (5-10 minutes). Pour out water into sink before added dumplings into broth. Bring soup to boil again, add turkey meat (not too much). Add more salt and pepper, if necessary, or let your diners season their own bowls of turkey dduk gook.
Garnish with finely chopped green onion and/or julienned egg. Serve dumpling soup immediately.
1) You don’t want to overcook the rice dumplings or cook all the dumplings at once. Cook just enough rice dumplings in the soup for the people you’re planning on serving. The rice dumplings become mush if they are cooked too long or if they sit too long in the broth. (Some people like my sister like mushy dduk gook and overcooked noodles. Others like HB like it chewy/al dente.)
2) You may opt not to add in the turkey meat to boil with the soup. What I sometimes like to do is pour the soup over the cold turkey and use the turkey to cool down the soup.
3) My family also likes to eat the soup with cooked rice as well. Also, there’s nothing like eating turkey dduk gook with nicely ripened kimchee or ggak-doo-gee (radish kimchee).
4) What is a serving? I guess it depends on how generous a chef you are and the people that you’re feeding (Are they on a diet or not? Do they have small or large appetites?). An easy trick is to take the bowl that you’re planning to serve it with and fill it half way (or a little more) with the frozen dduk before you thaw it out/put it in the soup. (This is assuming that the bowls are the standard-size bowls, and not the mega bowls that are used in restaurants.)
5) How to present? If using the standard-sized bowl, you would fill the bowl half full with the dduk and top it off three-quarters ways full with the broth; if it’s the mega-bowl, it would be about quarter or a third of bowl full of dduk, plus broth filling the bowl about half way or more (about an inch or so from the rim). Remember, dduk expands both in the soup and in the belly over time.