It’s leftovers time! One of my favorite times of year to do them, too. No, I’m not tired of turkey yet. I asked hubby the other day when we were prepping two of them, how can you get tired of something you only make once or twice a year? I know one turkey hefts a lot of weight, and a lot of leftovers sometimes, but we honestly enjoy that. What follows is a bit of a tradition in my house – heh, I waited for the tradition after being all, we have no Thanksgiving traditions yet. This is probably the only exception.
This is the grill that hubby built, oh, many years ago now. Yes, that’s a very large gas tank that’s been converted into a lean, very mean, dinner-making monster. It’s a popular thing to do amongst the serious grilling crowd and we love ours to death. You should have seen the fire we had to set in it to clean the old gas out of it. You could feel the heat over 20 feet away. Which is where yours truly was standing. In awe of the very tall flames – as in aaawww yeah! I’m still amazed no one called the fire department. Or the cops.
Hubby says we will now be known as rednecks since I’ve revealed Sir Grills-A-Lot and its origins. If loving this grill makes me one, so be it.
This is the turkey that I brined and hubby smoked. It’s only a little ten-pounder, and he also fried another one. This fella, though, is the not-so-secret ingredient for today’s recipe. Smoked meats can be a little tricksy. You don’t want them taking on too much of the smoked flavor, and poultry can really do so to the extreme sometimes. This bird came out perfectly, though.
By the way, we could fit 10 – 15 birds in Sir Grills-A-Lot. Hooraaaah!
For a few years I made a pretty straight forward turkey soup with the leftover meat. It was always very good and a great way to use up a lot of turkey and pack in some serious veggies. And it makes enough for days and days of dinners and work lunches. Again, we’re all for this, more and more as the years go by actually. I get so tired of town offerings of fast food and such. While I enjoy the occasional sushi lunch or juicy burger, I’d rather bring this kind of recipe from home most days.
Last year I had some frozen dumplings on hand and since hubby loves my chicken and dumplings, I’ve now converted my traditional turkey soup. It starts off with the important building blocks: onion, celery and carrots.
Once the veggies have sweated down to an acceptable level of softness, I dump in lots of fresh, minced garlic and fresh rosemary and thyme.
Next, in goes the turkey. Lots of turkey. Like, 3-4 cups worth of glorious, leftover bird. Gobble gobble indeed!
Fill ‘er on up, sir! Did I mention that I made my own turkey stock? I’ll explain how to do so below if that’s your thing. If not, move right on to canned or boxed stock. Ain’t nuthin’ but a thang. That’s 8-9 cups of stock by the way. WOWZAS. I know, right?
Every good recipe deserves at least one awesome shortcut. I present to you – frozen dumplings! People, I’m sure there’s something magical about flour dumplings rolled and cut by hand, but when you’ve tried these as I have, there’s really no need to go back. It saves me time. Besides, I’d already spent a lot of time making homemade turkey stock, my feet are starting to hurt, Lord PLEASE give me a shortcut. Oh, hello, ready-made dumplings. AMEN.
By the way, dumplings be thirsty things, hence all that rich stock we put in.
After the dumplings have done their thing, and the flour on them has been thickening the stock, you have one huge pot of filling, comforting, delicious turkey and dumplings. The smokiness from the meat infuses the entire meal with a richer flavor. It’s a taste bud boost you just can’t bottle.
Grab your favorite soup bowl, generously serve it up. Dip in one of those leftover rolls from Thanksgiving dinner, forget about the salad for one night and don’t forget to pat your tummy when you’re done.
Thank you and g’night!
Smoked Turkey and Dumplings
From Full Fork Ahead
Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook time: about 2 hours, fifteen minutes Level: Easy Serves: 8-10
- 1 cup diced sweet or yellow onion
- 2 cups diced baby carrots
- 1 cup diced celery, including any leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, whole
- 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 8-10 cups homemade turkey stock or canned/boxed chicken stock, plus more for thinning
- 3-4 cups leftover smoked or regular turkey, cubed or shredded
- 1 24-ounce package frozen dumplings
In a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, sweat the onion, carrots and celery with the lid on, stirring occasionally, for about fifteen minutes or until beginning to soften. Season slightly with salt and pepper. Do not discard any liquid that forms in the pan.
Add in the fresh herbs and garlic, saute for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the 8-9 cups turkey or chicken stock (depending on your preference for how much liquid you like) and the bay leaves. Bring to a steady simmer and lower heat enough to maintain. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to two hours with the lid slightly off to allow steam to escape. The liquid will begin to cook down this way.
Once the liquid has reduced down by about a quarter, begin adding in the frozen dumplings, breaking each dumpling strip into smaller pieces about a half-inch wide (the dumplings expand in the liquid – a lot). Do this for about three to four of the dumplings, then stir the pieces into the stew, repeating until all the dumplings have been incorporated. Season again with salt and pepper if necessary and keep stirring occasionally for about an hour until the dumplings are cooked through. They should be soft but still with a slight chewy bite to them. The liquid will thicken due to the flour on the dumplings. Use any leftover stock to thin the soup out if you prefer, or leave as is. Grab your favorite soup bowl and serve it up. Enjoy!
The stew will continue to thicken and absorb the liquid as it sits. If you have leftovers and prefer them to be a little less thick, add just a little turkey or chicken stock at a time till it regains the consistency you like. This likely will not affect the original flavor much at all since it was concentrated down originally. I’ve never had to adjust anything else after adding more stock to it later. I still want it to be thick, just not so thick it sticks to the spoon when holding it upside down.
How to make your own stock: Save the bones from your cooked turkey or chicken (a little meat left on them is good), even the neck bone and giblets. If you smoked your turkey, reserve a few small pieces of the skin, which is packed with that smokey flavor. Quarter one onion. Rough chop two celery stalks into large chunks. Optional: several sprigs fresh rosemary and/or thyme. Place them all in a large stock pot and fill it almost completely with water, leaving enough room to avoid spillage when it boils. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for several hours – I did mine for four hours and made about 12 or so cups of stock. Carefully remove any usable meat and set aside to save for your soup (the meat will actually now lack any flavor, but will take on new flavor from all that good stew you’ve made); discard the bones, herbs and vegetables. Strain the liquid into a large bowl to remove any other bits and pieces using a small-holed colander. I just set my colander right in a large 14-cup or so sized bowl and poured the liquid into the colander. As the stock cools, skim off any fat that accumulates on top. You can also chill it overnight and skim the hardened fat off then (thanks for that tip, Mom). You’re ready to make soup with your homemade stock now!
If you find you don’t have quite enough of the homemade stock, just use canned or boxed stock to make up the difference, preferably low-salt so that you control how much salt goes in. Freeze any leftover stock to use later…for more dumplings!