Leftovers, Rain, and Turkey Pho

The Best Use of  the Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey



After months of a packed schedule and way too much work, I had been eagerly anticipating the long Thanksgiving weekend to catch up on my reading, much needed sleep, and of course, a little football and some delicious leftovers.  But, when I discovered rain was on the horizon, I talked Mr. B out of making his traditional turkey gumbo and right into making a big pot of  turkey pho.

The two of us have spent a good part of our marriage searching out Vietnamese restaurants, those incredibly tiny little soup houses where we could slip into two empty chairs and tuck into big steaming bowls of pho, loaded with noodles, thinly sliced onions and jalapenos and from the platter at the center of the table, help ourselves to as many fistfuls of fresh bean sprouts, basil, and cilantro that we wanted, until our soup was a flavorful and heady concoction guaranteed to rid the body--and spirit--of any ill feelings. We were so fond of Vietnamese food that it was our default restaurant for many a lunch, or even a quick dinner on a cold winter night. Unfortunately, the last Vietnamese restaurant within easy driving distance shut down several years ago, so we've had to take matters into our own hands.

Pho isn't difficult to make and homemade is equally delicious as what you could find at a Vietnamese restaurant, as long as you take the time to make a rich stock. Without a good fortified broth, your efforts will be wasted and at best, you'll have a weak broth that's no match for the herbaceous and spicy flavors. Mr. B, however, has never made a weak broth in his life and in fact, I would venture to say that when it comes to making stock, his skills and expertise are vastly superior.

I knew venturing out in the rain wasn't in my plans, so I made a quick trip to the grocery for a few ingredients which turned into a serendipitous meeting. As I stood in line unpacking my items and placing the on the conveyor belt, an Asian woman ahead of me casually glanced over my groceries and then turned and took a long look at me. "What are you making?" she curiously asked. When I told her, she laughed and nodded her head. "Good for you," she said, "what a perfect day...but, I must tell you, we pronounce it 'fa', not 'fo'." I nodded my head in sincere gratitude--after all of these years, Mr. B and I had it all wrong. I knew he'd be interested by my encounter and that it would spark a fun conversation as we slurped away at our noodles, all while the rain softly fell outside our dining room window.

Turkey Pho
1 turkey carcass leftover from Thanksgiving dinner, sans any stuffing (toss in the skin and any bones, too)
1 stalk of celery, broken in two
1 carrot, broken in two.
1 small onion, cut in two--skin and all

2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced (remove seeds and veins for less heat)

1 package rice noodles
2-4 cups of leftover turkey meat without the skin
1 bunch green onions, green tops only
1 bunch of cilantro, washed and stemed
1 bunch of basil, leaves snipped and washed
2-3 thinly sliced jalapeno peppers
lime wedges

1. Place turkey bones in a large pot and cover with water.
2. Add the celery, onion, and carrot and bring the pot to a boil, then lower heat and simmer.
3. Simmer for 6 to 8 hours, until the bones are falling apart and the stock is rich and flavorful.
4. Place a strainer over a second pot large enough to hold the stock and strain off the bones, vegetables and debris until you have only the stock.
5. Return the stock to the stove and bring to a boil; turn down heat and let simmer.
6. Add the thinly sliced onions and jalapenos, a little salt and black pepper, and simmer until the onions are very soft and transparent and the peppers are disintegrating into the broth.
7. Add the rice noodles and simmer until cooked.
8. Add the turkey meat and heat through.
9. To serve, ladle the broth, noodles, and meat into large, deep bowls and top with green onions, cilantro, basil, and jalapenos, to taste, along with lime wedges.
10. Enjoy with green tea or ice cold beer.

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