“I was not born of water, or earth,
but of the space between buildings
where milkweed grows. I knew nothing of morning dew
before you, knew only the musk of subway cars lingering
above grates in the pavements." -- Hadiyah Huma
AM and I have been talking about tradition lately—what it means to us, and others, especially as it takes a fierce hold during the holiday season. I like to imagine it as an amorphous blob floating above me, hiding in the clouds, only to come down and influence me in the strangest of moments. Most of the time, I don’t care for sentiments of “this is how we have always done it”. But, I need the garlic toast my grandmother used to make (and now my mother) for any holiday to feel complete. If he could, AM would do away with all of it, I think. He likes to explore, explore, explore, not finding any more comfort in tradition than he would in the experience of something new. So why not take a step away from complacency?
My only retort to him is that tradition affords some level of routine and familiarity to an otherwise changing space, that I often feel affronted in this world with an unchallenged expectation to innovate and be new. It grows tiresome, especially when so many aspects of my own routine feel more like habit than tradition. Hardly purposeful and more driven by necessity. I want to be that person who plans and executes flawless meals, but that is driven less by a desire to be perfect and more by an appreciation of good ingredients and the art utilized in honoring them.
I have hosted the past two Thanksgivings in the small apartment I share with my roommate who is, thankfully, never annoyed by how my cooking endeavors explode and take over every free space of our rather full-countered kitchen. I don’t like allowing others to bring dishes, not because I need to control everything, but because Thanksgiving is about being taken care of. As an adult, I realize that I took for granted the endless efforts of my mother to make holidays special for our family of four. She woke up so early every year, just to make sure we had what was expected. I like doing that for others now, allowing friends who cannot go home to feel like they have nothing to worry about. That dinner will be delicious, and if they’d like, they can come over for coffee and breakfast long before the meal comes together. Last year, I had cinnamon rolls and coffee with Bailey’s at 10am sharp. This year was a smoked fontina, potato, and mushroom strata to start the day off right.
Our meal went off without a hitch. We snacked on a cheese plate, crostini and hummus, and curry spiced Chex mix as dinner approached. Herb roasted turkey (breasts stuffed with an herby paste), sourdough and sage apple stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts with crispy shallots and a balsamic glaze, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade multi-grain rolls, cranberry sauce with orange and Sauvignon Blanc, roasted cauliflower with brown butter breadcrumbs (thank you Sara!), and a maple pecan pie. It was glorious and I, spending the day in the kitchen, was in heaven.
I loved the company and teaching our dog companions, Moxie and Hugo, to stay out of my kitchen. However, the therapeutic part of Thanksgiving is always in the aftermath. The stock, slowly simmered for four hours the next day, and the turkey and dumpling soup that falls together. What is not to love about a soup fortified with a cup of leftover gravy and topped with buttermilk biscuits? My heart sang all of Thanksgiving because of my glorious guests, but my body finally stopped to take a breath one bite into this soup. My only regret is that I am posting it so far after all of your own leftovers have been consumed. This is a recipe worth bookmarking—trust me.
Turkey and Dumpling Soup
Lightly Adapted from Serious Eats
Turkey stock is dead simple to make. Once you’ve removed all the meat from your turkey, place the bones in a stock pot (split it between two if they are small). Roughly chop an onion, a few carrots, and some celery and add to the pot. Use a bay leaf, parsley, and thyme sprigs if you have them--no worries if not. Cover with water and simmer for four hours. Let cool and remove all the solids (straining through cheese cloth is easiest). Freeze anything you won’t use in the next few days.
What puts this soup over the top is the lemon zest in the broth. It pairs wonderfully with the buttermilk dumplings, so don’t skip it! The leftover turkey gravy is also key for a satisfying body and deep turkey flavor.
6 T. butter
1 1.2 c. + 3T. AP flour
48 oz. homemade turkey broth
1c. leftover turkey gravy
1 onion, chopped finely
2 carrots, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
All of your leftover turkey, pulled from bones and shredded
1 c. peas
Zest of one lemon
½ c. minced parsley
½ t. baking powder
2 T. chopped chives
½ c. buttermilk
Melt 3 T. of butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sautee onions until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add 3 T. of flour and cook, stirring constantly, until a light golden color develops. Slowly whisk in broth to avoid lumps. Add carrots, celery and gravy. Bring to a simmer and cook until carrots have softened, about 10 minutes. Add half the parsley, peas, lemon zest, and turkey. Season with salt and pepper, noting that if you used homemade stock, it will need a fair amount of salt (seriously, don’t be scared—salt is problematic when processed foods contain oodles of it. Not when you add it to homemade goods). Lower heat and gently simmer while you make the dumplings.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ c. flour, baking powder, chive, remaining parsley, and season with salt. In a separate bowl, melt the remaining 3 T. of butter. Whisk in buttermilk. Pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Drop tablespoon measures of dough on to the surface of the simmering soup. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until dumpling have risen and a toothpick comes out clean. Serve immediately.