We The North: Turkey noodle soup

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As we flew into O’Hare, I could see the “crushed ice” on Lake Michigan from my window seat but I still wasn’t prepared for the eye-watering, nose-running winter chill when we walked outside to wait in the taxi line.

One year we spent November/December/January on the shores of Lake Superior and February/March on the wind-swept prairies of North Dakota but this Chicago cold is brutal. The City opened thirty “warming shelters”, canceled the “Polar Plunge”, lit fires along the railroad tracks to keep them from freezing, and magically cleared the downtown sidewalks of all ice. Now that’s your tax dollars in action.

Chicagoans are smug about their ability to handle cold weather—but this sub-zero freeze has everyone talking. Local news shows are full of “how to” tips: thaw your pipes, dress up your dog, tow your car, “frostbite can lead to amputation” and other words of encouragement. Chirpy weather blonde is unrecognizable in her hooded puffy coat and lace-up boots. Luckily both the Sweetie and I have warm coats and mittens, so we can venture out and retain all our limbs. If you ever find yourself in We The North, here are a few of my own tips.

Don’t go out with wet hair when it’s -10°. No kidding, it will break off. Not a good look.

Calling dibs by saving a just-shoveled parking space with lawn chairs, brooms, shovels, etc. is a cherished, inviolable Chicago tradition. There will be retaliation if you move the stuff and park there. The CPD will not sympathize with you.

Chicago car owners resign themselves to driving dirty, salt-crusted, snow-plow hidden cars from December through March.

Wear plastic framed glasses—need I say more.

Join the throngs and invest in a serious coat—preferably a long, puffy one with a fur-lined hood.

Dress in layers—lots of layers, frost can bite exposed skin in fifteen minutes. The Sweetie dons five layers for his six-block walk to work. Ear muffs are a necessity, even under a wool cap. Forget the art of French scarf tying. Just start with a big one and wrap it around and around on the outside of your coat.

The blast of unexpected warmth from sidewalk grates overrides my reluctance to walk on them (and brings Marilyn Monroe to mind).

Unless you plan to rob a convenience store, a neck gaiter or buff may be a safer bet than a balaclava. (I had never heard of any of these until we came to Chicago.)

Neck gaiter                           Buff                                    Balaclava

Even though wearing mittens makes you feel like a nine-year old, your hands will be warmer.

The City of Chicago does a good job of keeping the sidewalks passable—either magnanimous compassion or savvy litigation avoidance, who’s to say.

Turkey Noodle Soup

Step 1. Roast the bones (You can skip this step, go right on to Step 2, and still make acceptable turkey stock for your soup, but roasting the raw bones and the cooked turkey carcass does make for a richer-tasting turkey soup.)

To roast the bones for the stock: place raw turkey or chicken bones (legs, necks, backs, wings, wing tips, and tail) and the cooked turkey carcass in a flat, heavy bottomed pan or large sheet-pan along with one quartered onion quartered, 3 large-chop carrots, and 2-3 large chop stalks of celery. Roast in a preheated 425° oven for 1-1 1/2  hours, or until the bones are well-browned, stirring a couple times.

If I don’t have a cooked turkey carcass, I usually roast a couple turkey wings, backs, necks, a whole drumstick, and chicken backs and necks.  My best ever turkey soup was made using a stock from three roasted turkey carcasses and 5 pounds roasted chicken bones—the more the merrier.

Step 2. Build the stock

If you skipped the roasting part, put the raw bones and cooked turkey carcass in the stockpot, add carrots, celery, onion, leftover mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns and cover with chicken stock or cold water.

If you roasted the bones and carcass, once they’re well-browned, place them and the roasted vegetables in a heavy-bottomed stock pot. Add two bay leaves (optional), a sprinkle of dried thyme, 8-10 black peppercorns, leftover dressing gravy, and mashed potatoes (if you have any) and cover with chicken stock or cold water. If you prefer a thicker soup, wait until you’re making the soup to add the leftovers.

The quantity of chicken stock or water to use varies with how many bones you use. Whatever the amount, just cover the bones and vegetables. This year I used a stock made from one roasted turkey leg, one roasted turkey wing, and a half cooked turkey breast carcass, covered with three boxes of chicken stock and a couple cups water.

Step 3. Simmer the stock

Bring to a boil, turn down immediately and simmer gently (uncovered) until bones are soft and falling apart, probably at least 2-3 hours. You can also put the stock pot in a 325° oven for four or so hours.

Step 4. Strain the stock

Turn off, let cool for 15 minutes, then strain (don’t save stock vegetables, you’ll want to add fresh ones for the soup). Any turkey meat that was on the bones may be tasteless and not worth saving.

Bring strained broth back to a simmer, salt to taste, skim to remove as much fat as possible, and let broth reduce at a simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 5. Turkey soup

In a clean stock pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter.

Add fresh diced carrots, celery, onion, sprinkle of salt, some white pepper, sprinkle of thyme, and half as much dried sage.

Sauté until vegetables are slightly softened, add 2 tablespoons flour and sauté, stirring constantly over medium low heat until flour is completely mixed in.

Cover vegetables with your hot stock or chicken stock and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft. To make a thicker soup, you can add the leftover mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy at this point.

Add cooked noodles (You can also cook the noodles in the soup. Just add them 10-15 minutes before the soup is done and vegetables are soft.) and diced or shredded turkey meat. Don’t be shy with salt—it makes a big difference.

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One Response to We The North: Turkey noodle soup

  1. Britt says:

    Thought I would have read in conclusion. If there are any left overs, place in storage containers and set on stoop to freeze. About an hour to freeze through.

    Some very amazing cold weather.

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