Food-wise, one of the saddest things I've seen on Thanksgiving is a meaty turkey carcass in the trash. I've seen this more times than I can count and in most cases it hasn't been appropriate for me to rescue it. I look longingly at the poor thing and then walk away.
It's just so wrong, for so many reasons. It's wasteful, it's a missed opportunity and it just seems creepy to put something like this in the trash, especially if you are a conscientious recycler, as I am.
Here's my suggestion: If you're hosting Thanksgiving but don't want the carcass, ask your guests. Surely someone will be thrilled to take it home. On the off chance that no one wants it, refrigerate it and call the best cook you know, who will likely welcome it with great enthusiasm. I certainly would.
Transforming a turkey carcass into delicious stock for soup, risotto, gumbo, curry and other stews is really easy and is best done during clean-up after dinner, so you don't have to make room for it in the refrigerator. Simply strip off the biggest pieces of meat, put the carcass and any pan or plate drippings, including little pieces of turkey, into a large pot, cover it with cold water and set the pot over medium heat. Add the neck and giblets if you have them. If you have a couple of bay leaves, toss them in, too, along with a stalk of celery, a small carrot and a quartered onion. If you don't want to bother with these ingredients, don't. The stock will still be delicious. (Be sure to wrap the turkey meat and refrigerate it right away.)
As foam rises to the surface of the water, use a broad spoon to remove it and the moment the water begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low. Let the stock simmer very gently for several hours or even overnight, if you have the type of stove that is safe to leave on. The stock is done when the carcass has totally collapsed on itself into separate pieces of bone. It is best not to stir the stock as it cooks.
Let the stock cool and then pour it through a large strainer set over a deep bowl or pot. Refrigerate the stock for several hours and then remove and discard the layer of fat that will have congealed on the top.
At this point, the stock is ready to be used or to be frozen. I freeze stock in 2-cup and 4-cup batches.
If you have a large slow-cooker, you can use it to make the stock, if the carcass will fit. Simply add the carcass and whatever additional ingredients you want, cover with water, set on low, cover and cook for 12 hours. Few things are simpler.
For recipes that call for turkey stock from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit "Eat This Now" at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com, where you'll find links to my favorite turkey-barley soup, turkey risotto and other yummy seasonal dishes. I've also posted several of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, including cranberry salsa, chestnut risotto, sauteed Brussels sprout leaves and, yes, spaghetti carbonara, at "Eat This Now," just in case you need last minute inspiration.
For today's recipe, I'm returning to an old New Orleans-inspired favorite that I've revised to make even more traditional than it was originally. It might seem counter-intuitive, especially in California, to use garlic powder, onion powder and ground pepper but these ingredients are necessary for authentic flavor. You can certainly use their fresh counterparts and have great results, so don't rush out to the store if you don't keep these items on hand.