A few Thanksgivings ago, we packed the kids in the minivan and headed to Orlando to my brother-in-law’s for a “Boston Market Takeout Thanksgiving.” Oh, don’t groan, it really wasn’t bad at all. While you were all scrubbing layers of grease off your pans, all we did was crumple up take out containers. The best part of celebrating the holidays with people who don’t cook is knowing that the entire turkey carcass is MINE…..ALL MINE.
Such a silly thing to be smug about, but I consider the endless potential of leftover bones just as exciting as the roasted turkey itself. And since we only have turkey once or twice a year, I act like Tom of Tom & Jerry with icons of turkey flashing in my eyes. I could make stock (freeze and use throughout the year), gumbo, casserole, soup and my favorite….Turkey Congee (rice porridge)
Normally, when I spend holiday dinners with other cooks and chefs, it’s a silent game of strategy. But how would you politely and tactfully be the first to lay dibs on the turkey bones if you are a guest? Since many of you will have turkey again for Christmas dinner, I’m going to share my secrets with you. But if you continue through to read…you’ve just waived away your right to use these tricks against me. Deal?
How to tactfully lay dibs on the turkey bones
I’m going to divide this strategy lessons into 3 parts. Before, during and after the meal.
Before the meal
- The moment you hang up your jacket and take off your shoes – begin your distraction technique. The cook has been up since 4 a.m. washing, chopping, baking, boiling, roasting for this one meal. Their mind is totally focused all the way up to the point of END OF DESSERT COURSE. Talk only about the meal itself. Do not bring up the subject of “leftovers” or “turkey bones.” If anyone else brings up the subject, quickly cut them off and say:
“Do I smell something burning?” BUT you can only play this “burning card” this ONCE in the evening. Any more than that, you might not be invited back next year.
- Offer to carve the turkey. Do NOT let that turkey go uncarved to the table. If the turkey gets carved at the table, those sexy turkey bones are exposed in front of the entire table and game over. Now everyone is thinking about potential recipes for turkey bones.
During the meal
- The seat closest to the kitchen is the MONEY SEAT. Before everyone else arrives, discreetly crumple up the napkin and take a drink from the water glass at that seat to lay claim.
- When the cook triumphantly announces, “Dinner is ready!” elegantly (but quickly) sashay to the table and stand behind the chair that you want. You can’t be the first to sit down, that would be rude and way too obvious. But just one hand casually leaning against the back of the chair is fine.
- Towards end of the meal, keep an eye for anyone finishing early. Do whatever you can to keep them at the table. Strike up engaging conversation with them. Ask OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS.
After the meal
- Be the first to signal the end of dinner and establish dominance by puffing up your chest, stretching arms out and pushing your chair out.
“Thank you for a lovely meal, name of host. It was truly a delightful Thanksgiving dinner! Let me help you clear the table.” and proceed to take your plate to the kitchen. Your host will surely follow behind you with an armful of dishes.
- If someone other than cook follows you before host can get to kitchen, BLOCK and REDIRECT.
“Oh, is that cranberry on your collar? That is going to stain! Quick! Take my Tide to Go stain pen.”
- With only you and cook in kitchen, stand over the turkey carcass, make a big SIGH, and say:
“Wow, that’s a lot of leftover turkey. You’ll be eating turkey for weeks!”
- By now, the host will be so stuffed of turkey, sick of turkey, focused on the piles of dirty dishes that she/he will not even think twice when you say:
“I’d love to take the bones home, may I?”
Now you can make Turkey Congee, or rice porridge:
To me, the most successful leftover turkey dishes do NOT TASTE LIKE LEFTOVER TURKEY. There are countless recipes floating out on the web, but if it just tastes like Thanksgiving turkey but in a different form, what’s the point?
Here’s the secret to making your turkey congee taste incredibly wonderful – dried scallops and dried shrimp.
You can find both in Asian markets. You only use a few pieces of each and it adds that mysterious “umami” dimension to your turkey congee. If you don’t have either, that is fine, you can substitute with any of the following:
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1 cup instant dashi stock
- 3-4 DRIED shitake black mushrooms
- saute 1/2 diced onion + 4 ounces chopped fresh mushrooms
Turkey Congee (Rice Porridge) Recipe
2 carrots, cut into large dice
3 stalks of celery, cut into large dice
2 tablespoons dried shrimp (optional)
6 whole dried scallops (optional)
9 cups water
1 cup raw rice
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups cooked turkey meat, shredded
fish sauce or soy sauce to taste
1. Soak dried scallops and shrimp in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. With your hands, separate the bones into large pieces (no smaller than 3"). In a large stockpot, heat cooking oil over medium-low heat. When hot, add carrots and celery and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add turkey bones and water to pot.
2. With your fingers, shred the scallops into small pieces. Add scallops, shrimp and the soaking water to broth. Turn heat to high and let boil. Immediately turn heat to low and add raw rice.Simmer uncovered or partially covered for 45 minutes, up to 2 hours until rice has thickened into congee. Do not stir while it is cooking. Just leave it alone so that the rice can thicken undisturbed. Stir in cooked turkey meat.
3. Taste, add fish sauce or soy sauce to taste. Start with 1 tablespoon first and add in 1/2 tsp at a time until you reach perfect seasoning.