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.
I wanted super mushroom soup. Mushroomy soup that tasted like mushrooms. Deep rich and delicious, not dull and salty, overpowered by cream and thickeners. I know that much flavor would need to start with a strong stock. Once I had that base I needed more mushrooms. I sautéed the Oyster and Shitake caps whose stems had flavored the stock. A half hour later, I strained the soup again. Now it was rich and mushroomy, beautifully dark brown and clear. But I wanted more!
I sliced Crimini mushroom caps thinly and sautéed them in farm-fresh butter. Deglazing the pan with Madeira added richness. This was it! Three layers of mushrooms and I was finally satisfied. This is was the mushroom flavor I had been looking for!
Mushroomy Mushroom Soup
- Olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 cups chopped wild mushrooms. I used Shitake and Oyster.
- 2 additional cups Crimini mushrooms thinly sliced
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 8-9 cups Rich Mushroom Stock*
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 tbs chopped thyme
- 1/2 cup Madeira
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- Heat 2 tbs oil in 4 qt saucepan over medium.
- Sauté shallot 4-5 minutes.
- Add 4 cups wild mushrooms and sauté until lightly brown.
- Add thyme and mushroom stock. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Strain soup, pressing on solids. Reserve the liquid. Save mushrooms for other use.*
- Meanwhile…melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook 2 cups sliced mushrooms until lightly browned and pan is dry. Stir in thyme. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Deglaze pan with Madeira.
- Return mushroom broth to 4 qt saucepan. Add sautéed mushrooms and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Season to taste and serve soup garnished with parsley. A tablespoon of butter stirred through will make it nice and rich.
*If you want a thicker soup you can purée the mushrooms into the soup at this point and continue as below. Add a 1/4 cup cream before serving. Or add the mushrooms to braining liquid or Sunday morning’s omelet.
It’s about flavor. Lots and lots of flavor.
You’ve had mushroom soup fresh from the can or carton, right? The first thing you taste is salt. Lots and lots of salt. Then there is this vaguely earthy note. Is it mushrooms or just the packaging? If the soup is creamy, the salt is typically the only flavor to escape the overwhelming starchy, non-dairy-ness of the concoction.
I wanted real mushroom soup. Earthy and rich. I wanted to taste concentrated, slap-your-mama, fresh, mushroom flavor. I knew that a good soup recipe alone wouldn’t get me there. I needed the foundation of a rich, flavorful stock.
Knowing I was going to serve this up at Eastern Market on Saturday morning, I had a few constraints. No oven and little time. that meant no roasting the ingredients, and not enough time for a beef stock. Some quick sautéing started to provide rich flavor. MIso paste was a quick and serviceable substitute for beef and a splash of Madeira gave me depth. All that was left was mushrooms, and several cups of stem trimmings, along with some dried Porcinis did the trick.
Now, several cups of mushroom trimmings invariably come from lots of mushrooms. To save a few pennies, I bought some criminis and used the trimmings from the Shitake and Oyster mushrooms I used later in the soup. This stock isn’t cheap (nor is it outrageous) but it satisfyingly delivers every bit of flavor I have promised.
Rich Mushroom Stock
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2-3 cups chopped mushroom stems. I use Shitake, Oyster and Crimini
- 2 tbs red miso paste
- 1/2 cup Madeira
- 1-2 oz dried Porcini mushrooms
- 4-5 parsley stems
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Sauté onions 2-3 minutes over medium heat in 1-2 tbs oil in a 4 qt saucepan
- Add carrots and celery. Cook for another 5 minutes. There should start to be some browning on the bottom of the pan.
- Add mushroom stems and cook until lightly browned.
- Add miso paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add the Madeira. As it simmers, stir up the yummy, brown bits off the bottom of the pot. Reduce until almost evaporated.
- Pour in 10 cups water, add Porcini, parsley, thyme and bay and simmer for 30-40 minutes, partially covered.
- Strain through a colander, pressing on the solids to release their juices. Then discard solids.
- Strain a final time through cheese cloth or a chinois. You should have 8-9 cups of stock for your mushroom soup.
This stock would also be wonderful for braising leeks, beef or chicken. Add some to a pan sauce next time you sauté pork chops.