Did you guys have a wonderful Thanksgiving? We started cooking wednesday night, and besides eight hours of much needed sleep, it was non-stop until thursday night; a constant flow of pies, casseroles, and rolls from our oven. When people started arriving, I was still in the middle of frying onion strings for the green bean casserole. It made its way into our bellies soon enough. We ate too much food, drank a few too many drinks, and had a jolly old time.
Though turkey is usually the star of the show, to be completely honest, it's the sides I look forward to most each year. But despite my lukewarm feelings, the big bird always makes its way onto our menu partly because of tradition, but mostly because I love repurposing the carcass to make turkey noodle casserole after we've grown tired of eating the standard leftovers.
The friday after every Thanksgiving, I place whatever is left of the turkey into a large stockpot, cover it completely with water and let it simmer for hours while we camp out in front of the tv until dark. When the stock has finished and cooled, I take the carcass out, pull off whatever meat is left on the backbone, and store everything in the fridge until we feel like making the noodle casserole (usually sometime during the weekend). It's a wonderfully therapeutic end to a frantic few days.
This particular turkey noodle casserole is meant to be made with any leftovers you have on hand. If you hosted Thanksgiving, chances are you'll have most, if not all, of the ingredients already. Here I call for celery and shallots, but if all you have are carrots and onions, definitely use those. Don't have cheddar or gruyere? You can use any sort of meltable cheese you'd like. It's truly a kitchen sink casserole, anything goes, what I've provided here is just a guideline not meant to be precisely followed. So have fun! Hopefully you still have some leftover turkey to make this, but if not, there's always next year.
If you would like to go all in and use turkey fat instead of butter in this casserole, I recommend reserving a quarter cup of it after roasting the turkey. You don't get very much fat from the stock making process as most of it renders out while roasting.
Serves 6 to 8.
For the stock:
1 leftover turkey carcass
enough water to cover the turkey
For the casserole:
1/4 cup turkey fat or butter
3 to 4 stalks celery, medium dice (about 1 & 1/2 cups)
3 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups turkey stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated cheddar or gruyere
salt and pepper to taste
12 oz egg noodles
2 cups reserved turkey meat, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp butter, melted
Place the turkey carcass in a large stockpot or dutch oven (you might have to break it up depending on how big it is). Add enough water to cover the turkey. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for at least 4 hours. Turn the heat off and let the stock cool until you can comfortably fish the turkey carcass out without burning yourself.
Remove the turkey from the stock and pull off any remaining meat. Discard the bones. Strain the stock using a fine mesh sieve. Measure out 2 cups of meat and 4 cups of stock for the casserole and store the rest in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. While waiting for it to boil, make your sauce.
In a large saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter or turkey fat. Add the celery, shallots, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until softened. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and cook for another minute. Add the turkey stock 1/2 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition. Turn the heat to medium low, add the heavy cream and whisk to combine. Let the sauce simmer for 6 to 8 minutes until slightly thickened, scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally to prevent scorching. Turn the heat off and add cheese. Stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
When the water is ready, add the egg noodles and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer noodles to the sauce. Add turkey and stir to combine, making sure to coat the noodles and turkey evenly with the sauce. Transfer mixture to a large casserole or gratin dish. Combine the breadcrumbs and melted butter, sprinkle over the casserole and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 375 degrees F until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!