Homemade Turkey Noodle Soup
Credit: Lauri Patterson

Amid a holiday with stronger-than-average opinions about classic recipes and traditions, my Dad's Thanksgiving ritual isn't even written down. It doesn't have a recipe card covered in decades-old gravy drips but, like any other Thanksgiving dish, it's been perfected over time.

The challenge? Create a leftover stew that incorporates at least one spoonful of every remaining dish in the fridge. Yes, cranberry sauce included. Dubbed leftover turkey "stoup" due to a consistency that lands firmly in the middle of a soup and stew each time, it's a lot more appetizing than it sounds (or looks, depending on the year). It is without a doubt my favorite part of the holiday. Truly. I've been known to eat less on Thanksgiving Day than I do in the days I have access to endless bowls of this stuff.

Dad recently decided to pass the honor of cooking his second-day special down to me. He claims the one that does most of the eating should do most of the chopping. Along with a reminder that everything has to make it into the pot, I inherited a few notes.

First, while you have to work with what you've got, that doesn't mean you can't add something new…or a lot of something new–specifically potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, chicken broth, and seasonings. Once the base gets going, there's no rule on what size spoon you have to use. It's wise to scrounge around for the smallest one in the drawer when you go to add a bit of green bean casserole, cranberry, and what-have-you to the mix. A tiny spoonful is still playing by the rules.

Once the sides make it in, turkey is the star of the show. Sure, it's important to leave enough in the fridge for a turkey sandwich or turkey quesadilla, but it's not turkey stoup without a fair share of leftover bird. My family typically roasts double the amount of meat our table could ever possibly eat, so this is never a problem.

From there, creativity sets in. A taste-test here or there typically ends up with a dash more of this or that. The final result is never exactly the same, which means you've done it right.

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So, while your family may be debating whether or not sugar belongs in your cornbread this year, mine will be deciding who does the turkey stoup better: me or Dad.