Thanksgiving is not a thing in Japan. Just the sight of a roast chicken is rare, let alone a roast turkey. It’s something celebrated (to the best of my anecdotal knowledge) quietly in expat communities and among international-friendly Japanese folks. I do a Thanksgiving at my house with a few friends each year (potluck style), and this year was my first year cooking a turkey (a success). Doing so requires a bit of planning; one must order one’s turkey from the internet (I got mine from The Meat Guy and was able to specify the date and time I wanted it to arrive at my house. Handy!). One must also accept that said turkey will set one back around 6500 yen (around $65). One must note this investment and resolve to make the most of one’s bird. A bird with a frame. A turkey frame.
But for me, my favorite part of the Thanksgiving experience (aside, of course, from getting to spend time enjoying delicious food and beverage with loved ones) is the days after. When all the leftovers get repurposed and made into new delicious things.
Enter turkey frame soup. Ever since I was little I remember my mother and my grandmother making a giant pot of this stuff just after thanksgiving. It was like chicken noodle soup but somehow more…autumny. Somehow heartier. Somehow it hit me in somewhere deeper in my body (in my souuuul, I say), and there was nothing else like it.
I also distinctly recall one year where there was a mishap with a black pepper shaker and we all had deliciously nasal-clearing soup to enjoy.
Not to put my upbringing to shame, I decided that I too would make a turkey frame soup. I gathered everything I needed and stuck a little personal spin on it because that is what I do. The bones didn’t have a lot of meat on them (or so I thought when I cooked this), and I wanted a bit of extra protein (to help me get over a cold I was fighting), so I chose to include some lentils, to resounding success!
I loved it and it has been warming me from the outside in for a couple days now. I’m sad that I have finished it all but happy I got to have it. I might just have to order another bird and host another dinner party for an excuse to make this again.
Turkey Frame Soup with Lentils (and brown rice)
Bones from 1 roasted turkey
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 large zucchini, cut into quarters
2 stalks celery (leafy ends removed)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup green lentils (uncooked)
1/3 cup brown rice (uncooked)
1 bunch (about 3 cups) spinach, raw
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp basil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
- Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add a pinch of salt.
- Add garlic and cook until you smell the aromas (1 minute-ish). Add oregano, cumin, and basil.
- Add zucchini, carrot, and celery, and another pinch of salt to pot, stirring around to mix well with seasonings. Cook until softened.
- Break the carcass into pieces that will fit into the pot and place on top of vegetables. add enough water to cover. Add lentils and rice. Bring water to a boil, then cover and simmer until meat has fallen off bones (longer is fine). I cooked mine for about 2 hours covered.
- Uncover and let cook down to desired thickness. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with parsley if desired. Great with bread or alone.