Monday meal: Four ways to make soup from Thanksgiving leftovers

My family rarely has trouble finishing off the Thanksgiving turkey within a couple of days. We like sandwiches so much I’ve never had to experiment with turkey tetrazzini or other ways to use up the bird.

Some leftovers, like mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables, aren’t appealing cold and don’t reheat particularly well. I can’t stand wasting good food, so after the jump you’ll find some soup recipes incorporating Thanksgiving leftovers.

The first two ideas assume you are roasting a turkey this Thursday. The second two would work equally well for vegetarians and omnivores.

Easiest soup from Thanksgiving leftovers

This recipe won’t win any prizes at the Iowa State Fair, but it is fast and simple to make. It goes well with turkey sandwiches or whatever you serve the day after Thanksgiving. This is what I do almost every year, if I remember to save the vegetables before my efficient and helpful sister cleans out the roasting pan.

Before you roast the turkey, put lots of vegetables in the bottom of your roasting pan. There’s no the need to measure these; just use whatever combination of vegetables you like. I usually throw in a bunch of peeled garlic cloves and lots of chopped carrots, onions and celery. You could add butternut squash or root vegetables, like turnips and parsnips. Don’t waste time finely dicing the vegetables—big chunks work just as well.

After your Thanksgiving meal, take the vegetables out of the pan and drain off as much fat as you can. Put them in a bag or covered container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, take out the vegetables. Scrape away excess turkey fat if there’s a lot in the container. Dump all the vegetables in a blender or food processor. Thin out with some water or stock and puree. Then reheat in a saucepan, adding water or milk to get it to the consistency you like. Depending on how heavily you seasoned your turkey, you may want to add a little salt or pepper, but taste first. You can also add any dried herbs you like (thyme, dill or tarragon), but I have served this soup without adding any extra herbs or spices. It has plenty of flavor.

Turkey soup

You can find many recipes for turkey soup online, but this way works fine. Pick as much turkey meat as you can off the carcass and set aside in the refrigerator. Break the carcass into pieces and put in a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover. You can make turkey stock just from the bones, but I like to add a large chopped onion, some chopped celery, a few chopped carrots, a few peeled garlic cloves, and some whole peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a couple of hours. Some people like to add fresh herbs like sprigs of thyme to the stock (I rarely have those on hand).

Strain the stock and discard the bones and cooking vegetables. My dog likes the cooked carrots mixed in with his food.

Put the stock back in a saucepan and bring to a boil. You can cook some chopped carrots or potatoes, or dump in frozen vegetable medley if you like. Cut some of the turkey into small chunks and add those to the pot too. This turkey soup is relatively light but can become more filling if you add cooked rice, noodles or lots of potatoes to the soup.

Soup from leftover sweet potatoes

If you serve mashed sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, the next day you can boil some stock (or water with bouillon) and stir in the mashed sweet potatoes. You may want to add cream, milk, yogurt or creme fraiche. You may not need to add any herbs or spices, depending on how you prepared your sweet potatoes the previous day.  Some sweet potato soup recipes call for cinnamon, nutmeg and a little maple syrup, but I like savory soups better. Try adding a little dried thyme to the sweet potato mixture.

If you have leftover plain baked sweet potatoes, scoop out the flesh and set aside. Chop an onion, a carrot, a celery stalk or two if you have it, and saute in a little oil in a pan. When soft, add enough water to cover, 2 bay leaves, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then remove the bay leaves and puree with the leftover sweet potatoes. Return to the saucepan and reheat, adding salt and pepper to taste and milk if you like creamy soup.

Soup from leftover mashed potatoes

For Thanksgiving, people tend to make rich, flavorful mashed potatoes. My sister makes them with cream cheese, garlic, butter and milk. The next day, heat up some veggie stock or water with bouillon in a saucepan and stir in your leftover mashed potatoes to get the consistency you like. Probably the soup won’t need any extra milk or cream, but you may want to add salt or pepper.

Another option is to saute some chopped carrots with onions or leeks in oil or butter. After 5-10 minutes, add water to cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until the carrots are soft (15-20 min), then puree in a blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and stir in your leftover mashed potatoes. You probably will need to add some water to thin it out. Many herbs would go well in a soup like this, but I like potato, carrot and leek soup with just a little salt and pepper.

Share your own favorite Thanksgiving leftover recipes in this thread.

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