How to Eat the Whole Bird -- Neck, Bones & All

turkey carcassHave you heard of the Curse of the Scorned Turkey Leftovers? It is said that every Thanksgiving some ungrateful family tosses their turkey leftovers, bones and all, into the garbage can. That night, the ghost of the turkey rises up out of the garbage and gives everyone heartburn and nightmares about Jerry Lewis.

Don't let this be you.

This Thanksgiving, before and after your family has devoured all of the fragrant, golden, roasted turkey you can in one sitting, show your gratitude by using as much of that bird as possible.


On Thanksgiving Day

Neck Brew -- You heard me, neck brew. Most turkeys come with a neat little package hidden inside the cavity: the neck with giblets, our euphemism for organs. You may not want to use the liver (the squishiest of the bunch -- more on that later). But the rest you can throw into a pot along with 1/2 an onion (with the skin on), a stalk of celery, a carrot, pepper, a bay leaf, and any other scraps you have from your stuffing. Fill the pot with water and let it simmer gently (not boil!) until you have a rich stock. Add salt to taste.

Bonus: You can do this the day before Thanksgiving.

Gravy -- Now you can make gravy! Follow your favorite recipe (here's five plus this Thyme Cream Gravy looks luscious) using your just-strained neck brew. Alternatively you could just reduce the the strained neck brew for an hour or so until it turns into a sauce. The flavor will be stronger and smoother than a flour-based gravy.

Bonus: You don't have to buy chicken stock. Also, do I need to tell you it tastes better?

Pet Snack -- Every time I roast a chicken I chop up the liver and feed it to my cat. She likes turkey liver, too. If you're concerned about contamination you may want to saute it (without seasonings) until thoroughly cooked.

Bonus: None, since it's unlikely your cat will display a shred of thanks for this treat. In fact, she'll just look at you like "what took you so long, jackass" and start eating. But it's good Thanksgiving karma.

After Thanksgiving Dinner

Strip -- Take the time to pull every last bit of meat off that carcass. Pack it up and put it in the refrigerator.

Meat Jelly -- You know that gelled turkey juice you get after you've refrigerated the turkey leftovers? It's amazing. Spread it on a turkey sandwich.

Turkey Skin Cracklins' -- Some people don't eat the skin. I don't understand this at all; to me it's the best part! Grill the skin in a cast-iron skillet over low heat -- or in a warm (300 degree) oven until the skin is crisp. Enjoy. Oh, I guess you could crumble it over leftover mashed potatoes or salad. Strain the leftover melted fat and save as turkey schmalz.

More Turkey Stock -- You may want to divide the bones in half if you have an especially large bird. Take that first batch of bones and add 1/2 an onion, a celery stalk, a carrot, pepper, a bay leaf, and other herbs (sound familiar?). Put it all in the slow cooker, cover with water, and then spend the day shopping or going to the movies. You can freeze half the bones to make another batch of stock later in the winter.

Turkey Soup Cubes -- After you strain your turkey stock you could use it as a soup base. But you could also reserve a few cups and freeze it in a couple ice cube trays. I'll plop a soup cube on my son's food sometimes when it's too hot to eat. Or, you can use soup cubes for sauces throughout the year.

Well-Traveled Leftovers -- You already know about chicken pot pie, turkey salad, and turkey stew. If you're a little sick of traditional Thanksgiving flavors try using your leftover turkey meat for mole enchiladas, stir fry, or turkey curry soup. Here's a few other off-the-gobbling-track ideas.

What do you do with turkey leftovers?

Image via Adriana Velez

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