Turkey is just not our favorite food for Thanksgiving, aside from a couple of family members being allergic to it. We know it’s traditional and we’re “supposed” to like it, and it’s just what you eat for that particular holiday. We enjoy the ceremony of cooking, stuffing, basting, carving, and serving dinner to a big group, which we still do, we’ve just said “Bye, bye!” to Mr. Turkey.
In early November, we started to think about what we would cook to make a fabulous feast minus the turkey. Some years it’s been Roast Chicken, but Mr. H. usually prefers some form of beef, occasionally prime rib. When we saw a duck in the the freezer case at our favorite grocery store, we thought we would try a test run, so we bought bought one. Mr. H. stuffed it into our basement freezer, but when he went back for bacon the next morning, the duck was sitting out on the floor, icy cold but defrosting, with the freezer door securely fastened. Since the duck had a flying leap in the middle of the night, we thought it was a good day to try roast duck. We checked Julia Child, who is very fond of duck, and a few recipes on the internet, and picked some versions that weren’t too sweet or sticky, although most called for orange rind, which we like very much. The main difference in roasting a chicken and roasting a duck is that, while the duck looks like a long, gangly chicken, it is actually fattier, so does not need the constant basting a chicken requires (Julia recommends basting every ten minutes for chicken, but none for duck). Roast duck is actually easier, and the soup stock made from the bones is absolutely amazing, rich, succulent and delicious.
How to make Soup from Chicken or Duck Carcass
Pick the carcass clean of all usable meat–reserve in plastic container in fridge or freezer, saving any extra gravy as well. Place all bones, including neck bones, skin, fat and giblets into a large pot or crockpot . Add an onion and a carrot or celery. Cover with cool water. Simmer 4-6 hours at very low temperature, or on low setting for crockpot. Cool slightly, then pour cooled stock through a sieve, reserving vegetables separately. Discard bones and skin. Cool stock in refrigerator until fat hardens and separates. Discard fat.
The next day, saute’ onions, celery, carrot and any other desired vegetables in large pot. Add reserved meat, gravy and defatted stock. Simmer about an hour or until almost ready to eat. Check seasonings, adding more of what was used when cooking the bird. (My favorites are rosemary, thyme, parsley and garlic. Add more salt and pepper last, to taste.) Leftovers may be frozen in small containers. Enjoy!
*Bones, skin and fat may be frozen in a gallon bag, until you have time to make the soup.
We tried cooking another duck a few weeks later, when planned. It did not fly out of the fridge this time. I am looking forward to another great pot of soup, as good for a cold as chicken soup, but richer and more flavorful.
We spent Thanksgiving Day this year serving food at a community dinner in south Georgia, visiting daughter Sarah and her husband. It was a different way to spend Thanksgiving Day, a little busier, meeting new people, lots of standing rather than sitting, and being a “worker bee” instead of the hostess of a family meal, but a good way to share this day of thankfulness with others. (I stayed away from the turkey!)