Some people are done with their Thanksgiving cooking when the bird makes it to the table. Not here.
We cook two turkeys on the grill each Thanksgiving. The smaller birds are a little leaner (and, I think, more tasty), and we can flavor them differently. As I write this, we have one turkey sitting in a Moroccan-spice brine, and I’m about to go downstairs to shove minced garlic and rosemary under the skin of another bird.
When the birds come off the grill–always a little earlier than we expect–they get set aside to rest before being carved. Carving is most decidedly not done at the table. There just isn’t room on a platter to remove both breasts; joint the wings, thighs, and drums; and pull off the remaining small bits of dark meat.
Besides, carving turkey breast at the table generally means cutting along the grain instead of against it, which produces longer fibers. Our turkeys aren’t dry, but even for them, shorter muscle fibers make for more pleasant chewing. Our way, the breast is cut off whole, then cut into slices the short way. It hold the gravy better that way too.
A little skin is set aside for those who like it. Grilling, by the way, makes for very tasty, crisp skin. Then the rest of the skin, the necks, and the main part of the carcasses (plus any chicken, duck, and turkey bones that have accumulated in the freezer) are thrown in a stock pot with water to just cover them on low heat.
By the end of dinner (dessert comes a couple of hours later), the water in the stock pot should be near to simmering. While waiting for it to get there, we add a couple of onions, quartered, and some big chunks of carrot and celery. Bay leaves and peppercorns go in now too, as well as the additional bones from the meal and any wings and skin that people didn’t want to eat.
The stock never gets above a low simmer. We check the heat when it’s time to serve pie and when everyone packs up their stuff to leave. About an hour before bedtime, the heat is turned off. Last thing to happen before bed, along with another load of dishes, is that the stock is poured through a large colander into another, smaller pot, leaving behind all the bones and now very squishy vegetables.
Voila. We have stock, with next to no work aside from already cooking the turkeys. It may need to be boiled down a little before being turned into turkey wild rice soup, but that doesn’t take much more time and attention than making the stock itself did.