Thanksgiving leftovers for me are generally of the sandwich variety. I love leftover turkey sandwiches. With cranberry sauce and a slice of dressing. I make extra dressing, bind it with eggs and cram it into a loaf pan. Baked off, it makes perfect slices to fit a sandwich. I even make some sweet-savory jams and chutneys during the summer for use on the post-Thanksgiving concoctions. My family gathers and plows through the leftovers in a laid-back feed, usually at someone else’s home (lucky me). After preparing the bulk of the Thanksgiving feast, I don’t usually have the energy to deal with another cooking project. Frankly, I don’t’ always have it in me to make stock from the turkey carcass. Mostly, it means more dirty dishes.
But last year, I put my mind to creating a hearty, warming meal using the leftover turkey with minimal work and lots of flavor. And this is my result. There are several ways to speed up this process. When you are chopping vegetables for the big meal, put some aside in a Ziploc in the fridge to use for this. Or buy a bag of frozen chopped mire-poix or soup starter when you do the big shop. I always overbuy on sage, the classic Thanksgiving herb, but use what you have on hand. I find quick-cooking wild rice easily, so look out for that and save yourself a step (though it is an easy one) of cooking the rice. I don’t always have eight cups of turkey stock leftover after I make gravy and dressing, so I make up the difference with boxed stock. Cream cheese adds a little body and tang to the final creamy product. The soup is lovely as is, but some toasted pieces of leftover dressing on top add a nice contrast.
Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing Croutons
2 cups finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced carrot
1 cup finely diced celery
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 cups turkey or chicken stock, or a combination
2 finely minced garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 yellow potato, finely diced
1 ½ cups quick-cooking wild rice, or 1 ½ cups wild rice cooked according to package instructions
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups diced cooked turkey
Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in a 5-quart Dutch oven in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle over 1 Tablespoon of the sage and stir well. When the vegetables are soft, add ½ cup stock and cook until the liquid is evaporated. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minutes. Pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Add the remaining sage and the potato, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 1o minutes until the potatoes are becoming tender. If using quick cooking wild rice, add it now, cover the pot and cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is tender. Bring the soup to a low bubble (not boiling, but bubbling). Cut the cream cheese into small chunks and whisk a few at a time into the soup adding more as it melts. Don’t worry if it looks odd and separated at some point, just keep whisking away until the soup is smooth and creamy. Stir in the diced turkey (and cooked wild rice if that is what you are using) and cook, stirring, until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Because of the potatoes and rice, you may need to be generous with the salt.
Serve immediately. Leftovers can be gently reheated until warm.
For the Croutons: Cut leftover dressing into cubes or rough pieces. Melt a Tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and toast the cubes until brown and crispy.