Some background: my family doesn't usually do a traditional Christmas dinner. Thanksgiving is the traditional meal of the year and Christmas is whatever Mom feels like making. But this year, because both my brother and father were out of the country for Thanksgiving, we went the full turkey, stuffing and cranberry route.
So today, my family's traditional post-Thanksgiving meal is on the stove. I must be clear: I have never made this. This is my dad's recipe and none of us are allowed to do anything. So all I can really tell you is what I have observed.
- There are no measurements because this is very loose recipe, based on how the cook feels that day and what is in the pantry. The goal of this soup is to use the leftovers, not to go to the store.
- Cooking times are approximate, because this soup cooks while you are reading the newspaper, surfing the web, raking leaves, walking the dog, or what-have-you. Put the soup on the lowest heat possible and just let it go. You only have to pay attention to it towards the end.
The next day, after coffee and the paper, chop up some veggies, (usually the holy trinity of onions, carrots and celery) and put them in the bottom of a 6-8 qt dutch oven with some olive oil. Cook over medium heat until the onions start to wilt.
Decide on the character of the soup: aka "Fun with the Spice Rack". Dad is fairly traditional and sticks with bay leaf, parsley, maybe some sage, but has been known to experiment with soy sauce, chilies, lime juice, cinnamon and curry powder. Truly, it's however the spirit moves you. Put the spices of choice in with the veggies and saute for a few minutes, until everything smells good.
Get out the broth out of the refrigerator and take the fat off the top. But the broth into the soup pot with the veggies. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or so.
The big decision now is whether or not to put rice in. If there's a lot of liquid, some rice can add body to a fairly thin broth. Another option is to thicken the soup with leftover stuffing. If you decide to use rice, make sure the rice is cooked before proceding to the next step.
Clean out the refrigerator. Chopped turkey, leftover mushrooms, stuffing, whatever you have that you think will work well in the soup. Put into the soup and simmer on low for about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. (A squirt of lemon juice can add a nice note of brightness about now.) It is now ready to serve.
This soup says holiday to me just as strongly as fruitcake and eggnog, and is very warming after a morning raking leaves.