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Joni Woolf: Save that turkey!

When Thanksgiving is over, we sometimes think we’ve had enough turkey for a while so we give it to children to take home, or put in the freezer, or — worse yet — toss it. At this point, turkey has become a tired left-over, one we want to cast aside. Not so fast! There are several ways to use left-over turkey, including perhaps the most common, the turkey sandwich, topped with lettuce and tomatoes, or even cranberry sauce. But nothing beats a good turkey soup, and one of the advantages of making soup from left-over turkey is that it can be put away in the freezer and saved until a time you’re craving a warm, substantive, inexpensive meal. The following soup recipe makes creative use of what remains of the bird that had a place of honor at our Thanksgiving table. So, save that turkey.

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
1 large onion
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 box quick-cooking wild rice mix with seasoning
1 cup water
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream (or half and half)
1 ½ cups chopped, cooked turkey
Chop all vegetables and mince garlic. In a 4-quart pot over medium heat drizzle olive oil and saute vegetables and garlic for 5 minutes. Reduce heat. Push vegetables to one side of the pot and add butter to the other side. When melted, whisk in the flour. Mix the flour paste into the vegetables. Add seasonings and rice. Mix well. Add water and cook on low heat 5 minutes. Then add stock and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Warm the heavy cream or half and half and stir into the soup. Add the chopped turkey and simmer another 5 minutes. Serve with a good crusty bread.

Another soup that I have enjoyed on a winter day is a carrot soup that I re-invent each time I make it. I cut up 3 or 4 carrots, a potato, an onion and cook in 3 or 4 cups of chicken stock until tender. Then I puree all the vegetables with an immersion blender and add seasonings: small amounts of pepper, turmeric, nutmeg and thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. I cook it another 10 minutes and add 1 cup of half and half. That is all. This is a delicious soup that can be altered according to tastes (less onion and potato, more carrots, etc.), and is always good with a sandwich or piece of cornbread.

A final reflection on Thanksgiving, and what we serve our guests: This year we had over 50 friends and family members to enjoy the feast on Bumphead Road. Some were there for the first time; others have been coming since the tradition began, some 15 years ago. We have learned a lot about what folks most enjoy, but we keep trying to convince our guests that “real” cranberry sauce — the kind you make with real, fresh cranberries is simply “better.” But we put out some of the jellied kind for those who prefer what they had in their youth. This year, as usual, the jellied cranberry sauce disappeared (we had bought only two cans) and the lovely sauce, made with such care, sat there, making a pretty addition to the table, but passed over by the diners. Have we learned anything? Maybe. Maybe next year we’ll serve more of the cafeteria variety. But I will hold out for at least a display of the real thing, even if half of it remains after the feast is done. Time will tell. Or not.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net