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Claim leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat (and bones) now

By Kara Kimbrough

Claim leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat (and bones) now
Turkey and wild rice soup is one of my favorite ways to use the leftover turkey bones and meat. With a side of homemade garlic bread (email me for the recipe), it's the perfect comfort food meal.

Thanksgiving is a couple of weeks away, but believe me when I say, you need to claim dibs on the turkey BEFORE the day arrives and here’s why. The game is not over when the turkey has been whittled down to a toothpick-like state. There are several meals left from leftover meat and dare I say it…the bones themselves.

A few years ago, a reader shared a recipe for turkey bone gumbo that has become one of my favorite dishes. Her recipe is actually what started my obsession with claiming the leftover turkey meat and bones. I do love traditional gumbo, but am not a fan of sausage. So, having an alternate gumbo with flavorful broth, vegetables and turkey pieces is a wonderful thing. I usually slip in a pound or two of shrimp, which makes a more Coast-like gumbo. I’ve shared it a couple of times, but if you missed it and would like the recipe, simply drop me an email and I’ll send it your way before Thanksgiving.

After this revelation, I attended a cooking class at The Mary C in Ocean Springs. There, the chef taught attendees how to make homemade garlic bread and turkey and wild rice soup using leftover remnants from the Thanksgiving meal. This savory dish has not surpassed turkey gumbo on my favorites list. Served over hot rice, it’s the ultimate satisfying comfort meal.

So, take my advice: call your family or whomever you’re planning to celebrate Thanksgiving with and claim the leftover turkey, bones and all. They may think you’re nuts, but it won’t matter when you try one (or all) of these turkeycentric recipes. After trying them – especially turkey and wild rice soup – like me, you may start looking forward to the day AFTER Thanksgiving the way you used to anticipate the holiday itself. Either way, you’ll never again let the turkey bones and any lingering meat go to waste.

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

(this looks like a long recipe, but it comes together very quickly)

4 tablespoons butter

2 carrots, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons flour

4-5 cups turkey or chicken stock (see directions below)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup uncooked wild rice (I use a package of Wild Rice Blend, with no seasoning packet)

3 cups shredded cooked turkey

½ cup half and half or heavy cream (heavy cream is best and doesn't break up, but half and half will work if you're trying to watch fat content)

Salt and pepper

Cooked rice (optional, but it pairs perfectly with this soup)

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Add carrots, onion, and celery to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add flour and cook about 3-5 minutes.

Add 4 cups of the turkey or chicken stock, thyme, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, and rice. Bring to a simmer and then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the turkey, half and half or heavy cream. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over hot rice.

Turkey Broth Recipe:

Place the carcass in a large stockpot. Add 3 stalks of celery, two coarsely chopped onions, water, salt, a few peppercorns, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and skimming any foam that forms on the surface.

Remove from the heat and let cool. Skim any fat that has risen to the surface. Strain through a large fine-mesh strainer. Reserve any meat that has fallen off the bones and pick off any meat that may still remain on the carcass. Reserve the onions and celery to use in the soup.

Turkey Bites

(perfect for post-Thanksgiving breakfast)

2 cups leftover turkey cooked, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 8-roll package crescent rolls

Pinch each: dill, salt, pepper, thyme

Spray non-stick cooking spray into muffin tin. Place large end of crescent triangle into bottom of each muffin tin. Mix turkey and all other ingredients together and spoon into each muffin tin compartment. Fold smaller end of crescent triangle over top of turkey mixture. Bake as directed on crescent roll package or until lightly browned on top.

Turkey Tetrazzini

12 ounces dry spaghetti, cooked until al dente

3 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

¾ pound mushrooms sliced (or one small can, rinsed and drained)

3 tablespoons flour

2 ¼ cups chicken or turkey broth

8 ounces spreadable cream cheese, garlic flavor

1 ⅓ cups half & half or light cream

Salt & pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 cups turkey cooked and chopped

2 cups mozzarella cheese divided

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook butter, onions and garlic over medium heat until softened. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 3 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add broth and cream all at once. Cook until thick & bubbly, let boil 1 minute. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Add parsley and seasonings.

Combine spaghetti, turkey, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and sauce. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Top with remaining mozzarella, cover and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake an additional 10-15 minutes uncovered until cheese is melted.

Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent specializing in New York City and Coastal travel. Email her at

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