precious cargo

On Saturday morning my sister and I were packing up our things to return to school after a lovely Thanksgiving break. As I crammed my no-bigger-than-3oz-of-liquid-abiding belongings into a tiny carry-on suitcase, I jealously watched her fill her car with Costco-sized bags of lentils, giant bottles of honey, containers of cranberry sauce, and a big mug of coffee. But although the constraints of air travel prevented me from toting all the contents our leftover-laden fridge back to Chicago, I did manage to bring a sizable stash of the most important Thanksgiving remnant with me: the turkey.

In our family we do turkey two ways: smoked and fried. My dad has worked on perfecting his techniques for over a decade, and now seemingly effortlessly produces juicy, perfectly seasoned birds that our family devours. The smoked turkey has an apple cider, ginger, and orange brine that my mom brews days in advance. The fried turkey is injected and bathed in mojo, an homage to our Cuban roots. I can never decide which I like more, and luckily I don’t have to.
My dad packed me a bag each of smoked and fried turkey minutes before departing for the airport. I diligently quadruple bagged them in heavy duty ziplocs, fearing that I would permeate the plane with eau de smoked turkey. I didn’t plan to dig into my stash mid-flight, but hunger struck one hour in, and that turkey delectably perched in my backpack pocket was all I could think about. Apologies to the men sitting next to me, but a hungry, turkey-toting girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do… which is awkwardly pull shards of turkey meat out from under my seat and consume it as unassumingly as possible.
Just a few pieces satisfied my airplane craving, which meant that I was still left with a substantial amount of turkey to last me throughout the week. I wanted to turn it into something more than plain meat, and with the wintry weather finally taking its hold here, soup seemed like the perfect route to take. I gathered inspiration from some of my favorite soups—my mom’s chicken soup, mushroom barley soup, and quinoa soup that I ate many bowls of in Peru—to make a turkey, mushroom, and quinoa soup, which made plenty of leftovers that I froze to get me through the thick of finals and the time when I’ll return home once again.
Turkey, Mushroom, and Quinoa Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced into large pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 lb white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme, chopped
3/4 cup white wine
2-3 cups leftover turkey meat, chopped
32 oz. chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup dry quinoa
1 bunch turnip greens (or other leafy green)
Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook about 3 minutes. Add carrots and parsnips and cook for another 5 minutes, until they brown a bit. Add mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Season with a bit of salt and pepper (be careful not to over salt, as leftover turkey and chicken stock will also have salt). Add white wine and allow to cook down for about 3-4 minutes. Add chicken broth and turkey meat. Bring soup to a boil, covered. Allow soup to boil for 10-15 minutes, until carrots and parsnips are soft but still tender. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. Cover and bring to a boil again. Cook for another 10-12 minutes. Add turnip greens and cover again. Boil soup for another 3-5 minutes, until greens wilt and quinoa is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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