To begin with, any soup is going to be better when you make it with homemade stock. This is especially true with turkey soup as it is very difficult, i.e. pert' near impossible, to find turkey stock at the supermarket. And chicken stock is weak substitute. Turkey stock is pretty easy to make, especially if you have just roasted a turkey. It takes around five hours to make turkey stock, so if you have enough time, read my article "Turkey Stock" first, and then come back to this one to make turkey soup.
Once you have a superior stock to work with, an excellent soup is not hard to come by. And in fact it can be made in very little time. If you reserved some turkey meat from your last roast turkey you will find it especially easy. The recipe for this soup is going to be carrot, onion, turkey, rice, garlic and parsley. It is a very simple recipe; in fact, it is a variation of an old French recipe for English chicken soup, Soupe au poulet a l'anglaise.
1. Prepare the ingredients for the soup. The carrots and onions should be peeled and diced to similar bite-size pieces. The garlic should be smashed with the knife and minced finely. These ingredients will be cooked at the same time, so they can be placed in the same bowl for temporary storage. Chop the turkey into bite-size pieces, depending on your preference. Mince the parsley and thyme and set them aside. Melt the butter in the stock pot over medium heat.
2. Sauté the diced carrots, onion and garlic in the butter. You are not trying to brown the vegetables; you are just sweating them and giving them a jump start on the cooking process. I had considered adding the rice now, like a risotto. But I decided to stick with what I know works and add it later. After a few minutes of cooking, the onions should be becoming translucent. That means the vegetables are cooked enough: time for the next step.
3. Add the turkey stock to the stock pot. At this point, you will begin to notice the difference between the pure smell of homemade stock versus the salty chicken broth from the store. Pour in the homemade stock or broth and turn the heat up until the stock begins to simmer. Once you have a sort of mild to medium simmer, move on to the next step.
4. Add the cubed turkey to the stock pot. Tossing the turkey in will kill the boil for a minute, but it will come back shortly. A covered pot will achieve boil more quickly than an uncovered one. Also, remember that a watched pot never boils over.
5. Add the rice to the stock pot. The rice will act to further thicken the soup, as well as balance out the meat and vegetables with some starch. If you prefer noodles, add them at this time instead of the rice. Or, if you prefer potatoes, add them at the same time as the turkey stock, just before the meat.
6. Check to see if the rice is done. As the soup cooks, check the consistency. If you feel it is too watery, cook it with the lid off. If the consistency seems good, cook with the lid on. The reason we don't salt our stocks will become clear at this point, the point at which we salt our soup to taste. If we use a salty stock, we have little or no control over the saltiness of the soup.
As I have stressed previously, a homemade stock is going to make the difference between good and great soup. It really is easy, and just takes a few hours, with very little prep-work involved. Just save your scraps from your regular cooking and make a stock on Saturday. Then you will have it to use for the whole week—or you can freeze it for another time.
If you have to use store-bought stock, at the very least do not use those wickedly salty little bouillon cubes or that paste. Buy whole, undiluted stock in a sealed container. But remember, you have absolutely no control over what they use to make that stuff. They take the idea behind using scraps to a whole new level.
Broth is similar to stock, except it usually is made with meat and it is always seasoned and salted for ready consumption.
A watched pot never boils over.
Cool down large volumes of liquid by submerging them in ice-water baths, and by stirring them.