Slurp: Turkey Stock

I love Thanksgiving, but not for the reason you might think. There are only so many ways to roast a turkey (that my family will still agree to eat, anyway) but the possibilities that come after the bird is baked are endless. You know what I'm talking about. I bet you dream about it, too. It's the thing that makes the whole dog and pony show worthwhile: the turkey stock. 

 In this stock I used leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat plus one wing, one leg and a smattering of other bones, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, pink peppercorns, fresh oregano, fresh rosemary, fresh sage and fresh thyme. 

In this stock I used leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat plus one wing, one leg and a smattering of other bones, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, pink peppercorns, fresh oregano, fresh rosemary, fresh sage and fresh thyme. 

I love making stock-- any kind of stock-- for one reason: it's a great way to use up all the produce that's about to tip over the peak of being edible. Those inner-fronds of celery that James won't eat with peanut butter because they look wiggly? Throw them in the stock. Those inner-cloves of garlic that are too small and tedious to peel and mince? Throw them in the stock. That carrot that's too big / small / oddly shaped to chop into carrot sticks? Throw it in the stock. The onions that never turned into soup and the herbs that never turned into focaccia and the pink peppercorns that you meant to use in that recipe you found on Pinterest but then forgot about? They're all kindreds. They belong together. In the stock. 

Stock is the equivalent of doing a lot with a little, the odds and ends that you don't have a place for anywhere else on the menu (I'm looking at you, errant scallion whites). Before you can make a soup worth slurping, you have to start with a solid, savory, flavor-filled stock. I swear by the Roasted Chicken Stock recipe in the Food Network: Super Soups iPad App as the basis for my process. 

Of course, as always, when I say "swear by" I  mean "follow as closely as I'll ever follow any recipe" which is to say, not very. Here are a couple keys to getting good flavor out of stock, all of which I've learned via trial and (mostly) error:

  • Roast the bones. Which seems more delicious to you: raw chicken or roast chicken? Exactly. Starting out with roasted chicken or turkey bones is a sure-fire way to add depth to the overall flavor of your stock. And I can hear you, sitting there, being all, That is so much extra work! Don't be silly. You know how you cook a chicken for dinner once a month? There are your roasted bones. You're welcome.
  • Let it reduce. I'm guilty of it: as soon as the veggies are cooked through the logical part of my brain that likes being on a schedule announces that the stock is done and it's time to strain. Don't do it! Don't fall into the efficiency trap! Making stock is not a time-saving activity on the front-end. It's about letting the magic pot simmer down for a couple hours, until you nip a sip and think to yourself, so that's what they mean by a 'pot of gold.' The more you let the stock reduce, the more flavor you're going to concentrate into it. Think of it as investing in deliciousness down the line in every recipe that will one day benefit from your patience right now. Sit back. Relax. Pour yourself a(nother) glass of wine and let that pot reduce. 
  • Leave the skins on. I leave as much of the skin on as possible. When I make poultry stock, that means the animal skin. (I know there are differing schools of thought on skin and fat, but I'm all for it.) It also means the onion skins and the garlic skins. In my personal opinion, it only adds to the flavor, and I always cool my stock before portioning it out to freeze or use, at which point I skim any extra fat that needs to be removed. 

What are your stock secrets?

-MMV.