The day after Thanksgiving I am back in the kitchen, chopping celery, onion and carrots to make a stock. This is a new tradition for me. For years, I stripped the turkey carcass immediately after dinner and tossed it into the garbage. No turkey bones stayed in my house. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving last year, The New York Times published Julia Moskin’s interview of LA chef, Suzanne Goin, who gave directions for making roasted turkey stock. Surprisingly I did not save this recipe. I still have the Better Homes and Garden recipes from 1978, the year I first roasted a turkey, and an article outlining the steps for the perfect Thanksgiving from a 1988 San Francisco Chronicle, the year we first had a huge family gathering. I have old clippings from magazines and handwritten recipes from friends dating back to when I got my first apartment, but I didn’t keep this article. However, I was inspired by the article enough last year that I broke the turkey carcass into pieces, roasted the bones, roasted the vegetables and then deviated from the original recipe. Instead of gently simmering the carcass on the stovetop, I used my crockpot—so much simpler. (I also skipped a step involving wine.) This morning I broke the carcass in two and then realized I was going to need two roasting pans. I set them in the oven to begin roasting the bones and started chopping the veggies. That’s when my daughter pointed out that I needed something bigger than the crockpot.
This year’s turkey was much larger than last year’s. This is because I finally replaced the tiny built-in microwave-oven combo that the previous owners had installed. The concept was good but the microwave was outdated and the oven was tiny. The first Thanksgiving we lived here, I bought a tinfoil roasting pan, bent it to fit in the oven, placed it on a small cookie sheet so it could hold the weight of a turkey and then cooked a fourteen pound turkey. The next year I went in search of a roasting pan that would fit in the oven. I found one (and cooked another small turkey). However, in haste, I ended up buying two that would not work—the handles made the pan too large. I meant to take them back. Husband had a better idea—get a new oven.
I really wanted a new oven. I knew exactly what I wanted—stainless steel double ovens by Kitchen Aid. The interior was a pretty blue enamel. The ovens could be programmed to work as a regular or convection oven. If I gave up a drawer, this oven would fit. There was a snag—we would have to have a 40 amp box where we had 30. To do this, our electrical box would have to be upgraded. On the other hand, this was not a bad idea. I really wanted to be able to hook up a generator if we had a power outage. I’ve lived without power before. After the January 1994 earthquake, we camped in our backyard while waiting for the aftershocks to stop and the building inspectors to examine the damage to our house. I‘m not worried about an earthquake. But losing power in a blizzard and being without heat or water (because we have a well)—that scared me. I wanted the generator more than the oven.
Upgrade the electrical. Upgrade the oven. Then when the sunroom roof leaked because of an ice dam and the door to the deck needed to be replaced, it made sense to upgrade the kitchen door as well. You can see where this is going. Now I want to repaint the kitchen, cover the popcorn ceiling, get new window treatments. Maybe I should replace the cabinets too. You would think that I would be thankful for what I have.
I am thankful. I love my new oven. When the lights flickered on Thanksgiving, I shrugged. I have my backup generator. We are fortunate that we can afford to make changes to our house, to buy food, to pay the heating oil bill. I am fortunate to have a husband who loves me, three successful daughters and the most adorable grandson in the world.
Sometimes we get so caught up in what we want, we forget to be grateful for what we do have. Instead of concentrating on desires, try focusing on the little joys of life. A smile on someone else’s face can bring one to yours.
In case you were wondering what I did with my larger carcass, my husband used to brew beer. I have a huge stockpot that is currently simmering on the stove. For those of you who would like Suzanne Goin’s stock recipe, it can be found on the NYT website. My variation will work really nicely with a chicken carcass as well. My recipe:
Preheat oven to 400. Strip the carcass of meat. (I leave some meat and any leftover skin.) Break carcass into pieces. If you did not cook the giblets, toss them onto the bones. Roast the bones for twenty minutes.
In the meantime, chop three or four stalks of celery, two large onions, and four or five carrots. (use half the veggies for a chicken carcass.) Add to roasting bones. Roast another twenty minutes.
While the vegetables and bones are roasting, I make a spice packet from cheesecloth. I cut a square of cheese cloth and then add spices. I usually add two cinnamon sticks, a tablespoon of whole allspice, a half tablespoon of whole cardamom, a teaspoon of cloves, a teaspoon of juniper berries. Today I made a second packet: six twigs of fresh thyme, two rosemary and two sage. I put these in the crockpot, and add the roasted bones and vegetables. I add water to the roasting pan to scrap the browned bits that cling to the bottom. This water is poured into the crockpot. I add more water until the crockpot is full.
I set the crockpot on high for eight hours. I can open one half of my crockpot lid; so I do this the last hour of cooking.
Today I brought the water to a boil and then simmered it for five hours with the pot lid slightly ajar.
Let the broth cool, discard bones, spice packets, and veggies, and then refrigerate or freeze.
Sometimes I freeze one chicken carcass and wait until I roast another chicken to make stock .