A student, the cookbook author Julia della Croce writes:
My mother thought that passing lasagne or big bowls of spaghetti and meatballs at the Thanskgiving table was declasse. It was fine for people in Besonhurst or other Italian enclaves, but she and my father lived in suburban New York City and to her, this meant, that at least one day a year she cooked an All-American feast. It was a dazzling spread, but my favorite part of the meal was the turkey carcass. It was the promise of the turkey and escarole soup that, like candied yams, appeared only once a year in our home. The classic escarole soup is a first course made with chicken broth that has deep Neapolitan roots, our version is true fusion, turkey broth with a faint hint of the sage and celery dressing. We love it so much that we forego excavating every morsel of stuffing from the crannies of the cavity and save the chicken wings and even the drumsticks for the soup pot. The aim is meaty soup with a walloping flavor.
The proportions in the recipe below are approximate, for larger or smaller birds, adjust the quantities of vegetables in order to get a rich broth and the fullest flavor possible. Instead of straining, many prefer to lift the bones and vegetables from the broth, discard the broth, chop the solids and return them to the soup. I prefer a clear soup and in addition to double-straining it, I shred the escarole and drop it, still crisp, in the steamy brew for the last few minutes before serving. Serve with shaved parmigiano or grana cheese and sizzling fresh croutons fried in olive oil. Oh, my!
Turkey Carcass Soup with Escarole, Olive Oil Croutons
For 6 people
fresh carcass of one 10-lb. Thanksgiving stuffed turkey as described above
wings and drumsticks from the bird, if available
2 carrots, peeled and quartered
2 onions, quartered
3 celery stalks with leaves, cut up
big handful fresh parsley, ítems and leaves
2 bay leaves
1 tomato, quartered (for color), if available
tasty home-made chicken stock or water just to cover
1 small head (1-1/4 pounds) escarole or curly endive
2 cups diced sturdy Italian or French bread (1/2-inch dice)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly milled black or white pepper
freshly shaved parmigiano-reggiano or grana pagano cheese for topping
1. Put the carcass, wings and drumsticks, if using, carrots, onions, celery, parsley, bay leaves, and tomato in an ample stock pot and cover with no more than 1½ inches chicken stock or water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Immediately lower to a gentle simmer and cook, partially covered, until the meat is falling off the bones and the vegetables are cooked, about 1 hour. Skim the foam whenever it forms on the top. The broth should cook gently for the entire cooking time, never returning to a boil.
2. While the broth is simmering, remove and discard any wilted outer leaves of the escarole. Cut off the tough bottom and trim off any brown spots. Wash the escarole well to remove any sand trapped in the leaves. Cut into ribbons 1/2 inch wide. Set aside.
3. When the broth is done, cool it slightly. Skim off as much of the fat as you can and strain the soup once to remove the large pieces and again though cheese cloth to create a clear broth. Return the broth to the heat.
4. While broth is warming, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the crouton are crisp, golden and toasty on all sides. Set aside in a warm place. When the soup boils, immediately stir in the shredded escarole. reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes. taste, adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve, topped with crouton and the shredded cheese.
5. Lift out the bones, vegetables, and meat that has fallen off the bone. Discard bones, herbs, and dry shreds of meat. You can cut up some of the vegetables and moist pieces of turkey if you like, but not too many or the soup will be too crowded. Alternatively, for a clear soup (my preference), set these aside for some other purpose. Strain the liquid through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. When ready to serve the soup, return the broth to a clean pot, bring to a boil, and add the salt.
6. Add the escarole and allow the soup to return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste for salt. If you are returning some of the cut-up turkey and vegetables to the soup, slip it them in now.
7. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When it is hot enough to make a piece of bread sizzle, add the diced bread and fry until golden on both sides. This will have to be done in batches if the skillet is too small to accommodate all the bread cubes without crowding.
8. While the bread is frying, ladle the soup into individual bowls. Toss the hot croutons into the hot soup (they should sizzle). Scatter the parmigiano or grana cheese over the croutons. Pass the pepper at the table. Eat at once while the croutons are still crunchy.