We’re enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday in Ithaca, N.Y., visiting with our daughter Emily and son-in-law Kent. It’s a break from the clan tradition of feasting at my mother’s family homestead in Norway, Maine. No 25-pound turkey, mounds of mashed potatoes, squash casserole, Robin’s buttermilk rolls and Aunt Jen’s pies. Instead of the assorted collection of nieces, nephews, cousins and my siblings, there’ll just be the four of us.
Or make that four of us … plus … a baby-in-waiting! Our very first grandchild is expected in early December.
These are exciting times for the soon-to-be new parents. The nursery is painted, the suitcase packed and the birth plan is ready. Now all that remains is the waiting and filling the freezer with ready-to-eat meals.
Which is where Grandma, aka Chef Cheryl, fits in.
Leftover turkey, smothered in gravy and topped with mashed potato, becomes turkey potpie. A creamy sauce with noodles transforms chunks of turkey into turkey tetrazzini, and my favorite, chopped turkey with lots of veggies makes into a hearty turkey soup.
The recipe for Turkey Tomatillo Soup is from my archives. Although the ingredient list may seem long, this recipe is merely just a guide for using encore turkey (2 cups), gravy or stock (4 cups) and lots and lots of vegetables (4 cups or more).
What gives this soup its zest, and bright, crisp flavor is the addition of chopped, fresh tomatillos and chopped chili or jalapeño peppers. Available in the produce section of larger supermarkets, tomatillos also are known as Mexican green tomatoes. Actually a fruit belonging to the same nightshade family as the tomato, they resemble a small green tomato with a papery, thin, parchment-like husk. Tomatillos are a mainstay of Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, used to make the classic dip guacamole dip and many sauces, such as salsa verde.
Tomatillos are cultivated here in Maine, and they grow wild in my garden. Once harvested, they’ll keep for a month or more in the refrigerator. No fresh tomatillos? Use canned instead. Not sure of the heat? Add the chopped chilies a small amount at a time, tasting as you go.
The soup base starts with onion sautéed in olive oil with ground cumin and garlic. Sautéing the cumin in oil enhances the flavor, making it bold enough to shine through all the delicious veggies. Add the chopped vegetables, turkey and stock and simmer. Then finish the soup with tomatillos and chilies. Be sure to taste as you go, correcting the seasonings.
This soup is the perfect repast for a cold, winter’s night or to feed a crowd on Sunday while watching football games. Serve in heated bowls topped with sour cream. Pass the chips, guacamole and salsa and enjoy!