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Savor the flavor: Condense turkey dinner leftovers into bouillon

Ari LeVaux
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Wellington Daily News

Leftovers season stretches from Thanksgiving until early January. This year, I’m anticipating more leftovers than usual, as the average dinner party will be smaller, but the average turkey will not.

For the first couple of leftover meals, you think, it just doesn’t get any better than this. But after a few meals of thawed and reheated turkey, the magic can start to fade. That’s when I’ll make a batch of Leftover Turkey Dinner Bouillon.

Bouillon, whether made from bones, mushrooms, vegetables or leftover turkey dinner, is basically stock that has been condensed down to a thick, potent state. You may have first encountered bouillon in cube form, although the best retail product currently available is the Better than Bouillon paste, which comes in jars. When I make bouillon at home, Better than Bouillon is the standard to which I aspire.

I use a pasta boiler to make bouillon, in the same manner I use a pasta boiler to make bone stock. I put the bones, meat and veggies in the pasta basket, where they cook and release their goodness into the thickening flavor paste.

And when it’s all done and cleaned up, Turkey Dinner Bouillon takes up a lot less freezer space than a bird. And you can use it in many more ways. I add it to instant ramen, or to a pan of mushrooms in butter, or to sauteed garlic to make a sauce for broccoli. Used properly, this (or any homemade bouillon) will add a rich background flavor without stealing the show. And will make people wonder why, exactly, your food tastes so good.

You can make this from a bonafide leftover turkey dinner, or you can make it from scratch. Made with fresh ingredients, it has a certain crisp replicability. Made with leftovers, it has a wild, unique authenticity.

The following ingredients are for making a batch from scratch. Consider this a frame of reference for getting a general idea of the proportions. And I’ll follow that with guidance on using actual leftovers to make a Leftover Turkey Dinner Bouillon.

Leftover Turkey Dinner Bouillon From Scratch

• 1 baked chicken, or part of one, including the meat and all the bones, crushed or broken open

• Optional: some other meat with a bone, like a pork chop, or a couple of ribs

• 2 cups coarsely chopped carrots

• 1 onion, cut into quarters, peels OK

• 5 sticks celery, chopped coarsely

• 5 medium potatoes, cut into quarters

• 4 large cloves garlic, whole

• 4 cups sourdough breadcrumbs

• 1 pound (or more) fresh cranberries

• 2 lemons or oranges, cut in half

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 3 tablespoons butter

• Salt and pepper to taste

• ¼ cup chopped fresh sage, thyme and rosemary, for garnish

Roast the carrots, onions, celery, garlic and potatoes in the butter and oil for 1 hour at 350 F, covered.

Then, add all ingredients to the upper part of a pasta boiler, to about an inch below the top of the outer pot. Cover with water. Cook on an extra-low simmer, a quiet state of steeping that I’ve heard chefs refer to as the lazy bubble.

Keep it covered, with the lid slightly askew to let out the steam, and let it continue to bubble lazily until the water drops below the bottom level of the pasta boiler, which can take 12-18 hours. Along the way, mash meat, bones, gristle and veggies in pasta basket into a mushy pulp. It will smell increasingly irresistible. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle out some soup to enjoy, garnished with fresh herbs.

As necessary, cool and refrigerate the operation overnight, so as not to risk burning your house down.

Once the bouillon level drops below the bottom of the pasta basket, remove it. Watch the bouillon level like a hawk. Don’t let it drop below an inch of depth.

To make bouillon from real leftovers: Use any meats, including the bones. When possible, crush the bones to let out the marrow. Use every other part of the animal, too, including muscle, fat, gristle, gizzards and skin. Add any stuffing, gravy or pan drippings you can. But skip those green beans, and all greenery for that matter — celery and herbs are the only green things permitted in Leftover Turkey Dinner Bouillon. But once the bouillon is done, by all means use it to cook the greens.