I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I’m known for changing what I’m making for dinner once I’ve already started cooking. As in, the butter’s melted, the pancetta is crisping in the pan and I’m onto something entirely different than where I originally started. It seems like terrible evidence of my short attention span and indecisiveness. Case in point, the other night I set out to make homemade turkey potpies. I’d returned from Thanksgiving with two turkey legs that I’d laid claim to after dinner like a child yelling ‘Shotgun!’ Even though I’m not generally a turkey lover in even the faintest sense, the idea of a turkey potpie hit me as we were enjoying our dessert and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.
Yet, when I was standing over my stove stirring and sampling the base for my creation – a combination of chicken broth and apple cider with the usual mirepoix, turkey meat and some special additions of pancetta and butternut squash – I realized that a pastry crust was highly unnecessary. On it’s own, it packed tremendous flavor, the sage and thyme marrying with the pork and cider for a distinctively homey, fall taste. I worried that if I added some pie crust or puff pastry to the mix that it would overshadow the flavors already at play. So I made a snap decision to nix my piecrust topper, which I had thankfully and lazily never rolled out. Instead some ring pasta went into the pot to make for a noodle soup, though if you are noodle-adverse I think some white beans would also be delicious. In fact, as I’m typing this, I think that variation might have to come.
The result is a turkey noodle soup that’s anything but typical and layered with flavor. If you still have any leftover turkey hanging out in your freezer this puts it to fantastic use, but you could also use rotisserie chicken (or my personal favorite, shredded duck) as a stand in. It’s worth it. I’m now kind of obsessed with the idea of adding apple cider to savory soups. I used a non-alcoholic variety but could also see adding some good quality hard cider instead. Even if you never make the recipe below, it’s an experiment worth trying. It adds the faintest amount of sweetness, acidity and depth and when paired with the pancetta and butternut squash it is a heavenly flavor combo. And of course, it’s also the perfect counterbalance to all the sugary delights that I’ve been churning out in the kitchen lately.
Adapted from Canyon Ranch and Eating Well
-1 tablespoon butter
-4 ounces chopped pancetta
-1 cups diced onion
-1 cup diced carrots
-1 cup diced celery
-1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves
-1 cup peeled and diced butternut squash
-2 cups shredded turkey meat
-4 3/4 cups low sodium chicken stock
-1 1/2 cups apple cider
-1/4 teaspoon dried, crushed thyme
-2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
-1/4 teaspoon black pepper
-Salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon, but this will likely vary depending on the saltiness of your turkey and stock)
-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
-1 1/2 cups small shape pasta
In a dutch oven, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy and fat is rendered. Remove pancetta from the pan and strain off the fat so the bottom of the pan is just lightly coated in grease. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and butternut squash and sauté until onions are translucent. Add shredded turkey to the saucepan.
Pour in the stock, apple cider, thyme and sage to the turkey and vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the butternut squash is just becoming tender.
Add pepper, salt, Worcestershire, and noodles and cook until noodles are just al dente. (Consult your pasta package for exact noodle cooking times.)