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Discerning Diner:
Post-Thanksgiving call from your mother-in-law: 'Soup's On'
By Elan Head

November 19, 2005

Last time in this space I promised to weigh in on Thanksgiving leftovers.

As I started thinking about the leftover “problem,” it occurred to me how lucky we are to have it at all.

I mean, the last thing the Pilgrims were worried about was all of their leftover stuffing.

I have to admit, I’ve never had much of a problem with Thanksgiving leftovers.

I’m peculiarly fond of food cold from the fridge, and I can eat cold leftover pie, turkey and cranberry sauce for days on end.

However, my husband’s family has a terrific ritual — and recipe — built around leftover turkey, and I thought it was worth sharing.

The dish is Aztec soup. I’m not sure where the recipe came from — presumably it’s named in homage to the Mexican sopa Azteca, though the two are nothing alike.

In any event, a proper Aztec soup begins with the kind of concentrated, golden turkey stock that can only come from the Thanksgiving turkey.

A word about stocks. When I make stock I follow the classic procedure to the letter: I skim off impurities, cook the stock at a bare simmer and under no circumstances let it boil.

When my mother-in-law makes stock she dumps as many bones as she can find into a pot of water and brings it to a rolling boil. She turns it down when she remembers.

She leaves the pot on the stove for several consecutive nights and boils it every morning to make it safe for consumption. If worthy table scraps appear in the kitchen, well, they get thrown in, too.

I’m the first to admit that my mother-in-law’s stocks are in every way superior to my own, though I can’t bring myself to follow her method.

The point is, stock-making can be a casual thing, no matter what any French chef tells you to the contrary.

Here’s the basic idea. When you’ve carved most of the meat from your holiday turkey, put the carcass in a pot and cover it with filtered water. (If you’re ambitious, roast the bones first: 30 minutes at 400 degrees should turn them brown and crackling.)

Bring the water to a boil, skimming off any foam that collects on the surface. Lower the heat and simmer for at least four hours, longer if you’d like.

The more a stock reduces, the more it congeals when cooled — which is a good thing. (My mother-in-law’s stocks turn as firm as Jell-O).

When you’ve run out of patience with your stock, strain it and save the liquid. There you go.

Now, for the soup. For about four servings (multiply as required), you’ll need one large white or yellow onion, chopped.

In a large pot, sauté the onion in two tablespoons of vegetable oil. When it’s soft, add two finely chopped garlic cloves and sauté until golden.

While the onion is cooking, peel and seed one small butternut squash. Chop the flesh into one-inch cubes.

Add two quarts of stock to the onion, then add the squash. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook at a simmer until the squash begins to soften.

Slice two zucchinis into half-moons. Add to the pot along with two cups of chopped cooked turkey meat.

When the butternut squash is soft, add two cups of frozen corn kernels and a half cup (or to taste) of chopped, roasted green chile. Cook until heated through. If the soup is too thick, add more stock or water, then salt to taste.

Serve the soup with lime wedges, chopped fresh cilantro and crumbled queso fresco or grated Monterey Jack cheese.

Now there’s something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!








































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