Thanksgiving dinner is a pause. I somehow put everything down for three days and focus on bringing one meal to the table. In a life filled with multi-tasking and the constant feeling that I lost a week somewhere in 2003 that I desperately need to get back, it’s a moment of peace.
That peace begins with a deep breath and a pot of stock. Even before I’ve finished the menu, the house fills with the scent of roasting meat and rough-chopped aromatics. Stock is effortless and rote, a handful of ingredients with no complex techniques, simply roasting and simmering with a little deglazing in between.
But, for its simplicity, stock adds great complexity and depth to the meal that lades the table Thanksgiving day. It brings satisfying richness. It elevates pan drippings into gravy, layers the simple sugars that glaze sweet potatoes and parsnips, transforms day-old bread into moist, herbed stuffing. Let’s hit the kitchen.
Rich Turkey Stock
- 6 pounds turkey parts like necks, legs or wings, cut in 3-4″ pieces*
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1.5 cups dry white wine or dry Vermouth
- 4 ribs celery, roughly chopped
- 6-8 parsley stems, about 2″ each
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
*You’re looking for cheap meat, less than $3 a pound, with some bone in it. Have your butcher chop it down for you.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Place turkey pieces in a single layer in a heavy bottomed roasting pan (you’re going to put the pan on the stovetop later). Do not crowd the turkey. Roast in two batches if needed.
- Roast the turkey until rich brown, about 1 hour. Remove turkey to a large stockpot.
- Add carrots and onion to the same roasting pan. Toss them in the rendered fat from the turkey and place in the oven. Reduce heat to 375.
- After 30 minutes, toss the roasting vegetables in the tomato paste and return to the oven. Turn the oven back to 400 and roast for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, watching carefully not to burn. Remove vegetables to stock pot with roast turkey.
- Place the roasting pan over two burners on medium high and add white wine. When wine comes to a simmer, scrape up all the brown goodness. When wine reduces to 1/4 cup, add additional water if needed to finish scraping the brown bits from the roasting pan.
- Pour deglazed pan juices into stock pot and add remaining ingredients.
- Fill pot with cold water to cover turkey and vegetables by 2 inches.
- Bring the pot to a simmer over medium low heat, partially covered. It will take about 45 minutes. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface.
- Continue to simmer stock, partially covered, just a bubble or two every few seconds, for three more hours. Be careful not to let it come to a boil. Add more cold water if needed to keep meat covered. Skim any additional foam that collects on the surface.
- After three hours, strain the stock and remove the solids, discarding them. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and then one more time through a sieve lined with a layer of paper towels or double layer of cheese cloth. You will have to change out the towels or cheese cloth several times, as they become clogged.
- Place strained stock in the fridge overnight. In the morning, skim the coagulated fat from the surface.
- Taste a little stock with a pinch of salt. If needed, reduce stock by up to 25% to concentrate flavor. It should make about 3-3.5 quarts.
- Refrigerate for three days, or freeze up to 6 months.