I am normally the last person to look for leftover turkey solutions. I don't usually cook a large turkey for Thanksgiving, and if there is any turkey left at the end of the meal, I send it home with other folks. But last week I was left with nearly half a leftover carcass, and after the bones and much of the meat were devoted to rich, savory turkey broth, I still had a big bowlful of shredded turkey on my hands.
So I cooked up this soup, a quick kale and turkey stew, made more flavorful by bacon and onion, and simple enough to be simmered together in less than an hour of mostly hands-off time.
Now, I should pause here to say that we've now reached the time when your cooked turkey ought to be discarded or frozen; the USDA recommends a 3 to 4 day maximum refrigeration time for cooked turkey. But if you do have a bag of shredded turkey in the freezer, or if you cooked your turkey over the weekend, then consider this stew.
Also, this isn't just an excuse to use up turkey. It's an elemental yet satisfying winter meal and it is a great recipe for any leftover poultry; you could throw in handfuls of leftover chicken instead of the turkey or, if you are very lucky, a bit of shredded duck. It's just the sort of winter cooking I crave this time of year: Wholesome, easy, and satisfying.
One last note: This recipe is so simple — there aren't a lot of ingredients here. With the exception of smoked paprika for a little color and depth, there aren't any spices or extra flavorings. So this stew depends greatly on the quality of stock that you use. This is the perfect time to use that lovely turkey broth you made from your leftovers, or to prep for your gravy.
Bacon, Kale, & Turkey Stew
3 thick slices bacon, cut into small strips
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
10 ounces kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 to 3 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken meat
4 to 5 cups turkey or chicken broth, ideally homemade
Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, to serve
Place a heavy 5-quart or larger pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently. When it has released much of its fat, but before it has gotten crispy, add the diced onion, minced garlic, and the bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, for at least 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened and become golden.
Add the kale, handful by handful, stirring to coat it with bacon fat. If it won't all fit at once, keep stirring until it wilts down. Sprinkle the kale lightly with salt and pepper and the smoked paprika. When all the kale has been added, stir in the shredded turkey or chicken meat, and cook for an additional 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to make sure that the kale is coated with the bacon fat and letting the onions and shredded turkey brown slightly.
Add the broth and bring to a simmer, then lower the heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the kale has wilted and the soup is hot.
Serve with shredded Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, if desired.
(Image: Faith Durand)