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As much as turkeys are a Thanksgiving tradition, so too are refrigerators packed tight with holiday leftovers.  After three days of grazing on cold turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes, though, the prospect of eating yet another plate of Thanksgiving just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal as it did just a few days before.

At my house, that turn of mood means it’s time to stop picking at the bird and instead make Thanksgiving Soup.  I know lots of people have a tradition of making soup from their Thanksgiving turkeys, but I’m willing to be you’ve never done it like this.

You see, there is no recipe, no spicing, no chopping, no measuring. This is the most serendipitous soup I know, and for all its lack of culinary exactness, it is always quite tasty and deeply satisfying.

The first step is pretty standard: making stock from the turkey. Pull all the meat you can off your bird and set it aside, and then put the carcass in a pot of water and simmer the heck out it.  After you remove the bones and whatever fat has floated to the surface, go ahead and add all of your Thanksgiving leftovers to the pot.  Yes, that’s right: all of them!

Put in all the leftover turkey, the leftover stuffing, the leftover mashed potatoes.  The candied yams? You bet! Green bean casserole? Brussels sprouts?  Peas and carrots? Yes, yes and yes.  Gravy? All of it! Cranberries? Absolutely!  Don’t forget to throw in a piece of that nut bread or pumpkin pie, crust and all.


Yes, really. Whatever dishes complimented each other at your Thanksgiving table will compliment each other all over again in this wonderful soup. The flavor is like an entire Thanksgiving meal in every bite.

The seasonings in the separate dishes will be all the spice you need, aside from salt (though you could always add some garlic, thyme or nutmeg if you find it lacking). The stuffing and potatoes should bulk up the pot, but if you need a little extra substance, just add some carrots, barley, beans, mushrooms or even some diced bread. A little cornstarch rue will thicken the broth if need be.

I suppose I first got the idea for Thanksgiving Soup by remembering the meals made by an old boyfriend of mine, some 25 years ago. Scott and his best friend Mark were living on their own for the first time, and being young guys, neither was much of a cook.

They primarily subsisted on a concoction they proudly called “Stuff,” which was basically a big pot of cooked pasta, plus whatever canned and jarred items they happened to have in the cupboard.

Everything you can think of went into a pot of Stuff — cans of chili, Spaghetti-Os, soups, refried beans, random sauces and salsas, frozen vegetables, Tater Tots, lunch meat, hot dogs, whatever.  Somehow it always tasted great (at least to us hungry college students) and it was definitely never the same Stuff twice.

Since folks’ recipes for Thanksgiving dishes are so different, every pot of Thanksgiving Soup will be different, too. No matter how it comes out, though, one thing you can be sure of is that Thanksgiving Soup is good Stuff — the holiday meal that keeps on giving.