Do you cook during the holidays with leftovers in mind? I do. There’s so much involved in pulling off a holiday meal to feed a crowd that I love to bank my efforts by repurposing ingredients and using up scraps. Many Americans make soup from the leftover turkey carcass and vegetable, but what about leftover Thanksgiving turkey pho?
Of course! All you have to do is channel the Viet pho spirit and idea of not wasting precious ingredients. Last year I created leftover turkey pho recipes for Rachel Ray magazine’s November issue. It was made in stockpot and I went through several rounds to arrive at a recipe that I liked. This year, I revisited the leftover Thanksgiving pho recipe to make it doable in a stovetop pressure cooker and electric multicooker, such as the Instant Pot and Fagor Lux.
For my experiment, I didn’t roast a whole turkey but rather one backbone and two wings. That would best emulate a situation that was bare bones. If I could make a pressure cooker leftover turkey pho from those parts, there was no holding me back! I started out with 3 pounds of raw turkey parts, which would likely to come from a small turkey. (Btw, if you want step-by-step details on butterflying a turkey, check out this post.)
Turns out (not much of a surprise!) that the pressure cooker creates rich broth in less time than a stockpot. However, the unintended consequence was an extra cloudy broth. I expected cloudy broth because emulsified fat in the roasted turkey parts causes cloudiness. I’ve run into this situation with rotisserie chicken pho, as I discuss in the recipe on page 82 of The Pho Cookbook. Cloudy pho broth happens when the parts have been roasted. (Hint: That’s how you can tell when a restaurant roasts its bones for pho.) Some pho aficionados who are more of eaters than cooks may say cloudy broth is the mark of bad pho. In this recipe, it just happens but does not throw the flavor off.
What does negatively affect flavor are impurities lingering on the bones. A quick spray and rinse under water takes care knocks off that stuff. Be sure to get into wells in the backbone!
But what can you do to reduce the lingering cloudiness? I experimented by refrigerating the broth and then skimming off the creamy looking layer on top. It was a thin layer of fat. Indeed, the broth was less cloudy but I went to taste the broth, it seemed thin and flat.
Why? Because fat holds a fair amount of flavor. The spice notes are easily detected in the fat. I added 1/3 to 1/2 back into the pot.
In summary, this Thanksgiving turkey pho broth is cloudy. If you decide to remove some of that top layer of fat for the sake of clarity, consider leaving half of it for flavor and complexity. I regularly leave on a slick of fat on my pho for oomph.
Another thing with the roast turkey is that due to its dryish state, it absorbs liquid. A raw chicken has moisture to give but a roast turkey really does not, especially parts like the back bone and wings. Because you’re limited to filling a 6-quart pressure cooker to only two-thirds capacity, you can’t put a lot of water into the pot. Consequently, the roasted parts soak up more water and your yield is is lower than the normal 8 cups that you’d get from say, the regular pressure cooker or Instant Pot chicken pho. No biggie. Just add water to make up the difference. From the pressure or multicooker, you’re creating a turkey pho concentrate.
Why did I build the recipe the way I did? Roast turkey has a distinctive, bold taste that can easily overwhelm delicate pho flavors. To downplay the turkey taste and make the broth pho-ish, I add the usual ginger and onion along with star anise and cinnamon, which are warming and big in flavor. Some coriander seeds and cilantro match my seasoning for regular chicken pho made from an unroasted bird.
Vegetables also help to build the pho flavor. Since we’re dealing with holiday leftovers, use lingering ingredients that you may have overbought as well as scraps saved from prep. I suggested vegetables that people may have from Thanksgiving menus.
The carrot and sweet potato contribute sweetness. Parsnip, celery, carrot tops, cabbage leaves, and cauliflower leaves lend earthiness. Make a mixture of vegetables. On one test run, I used only sweet potato and cauliflower leaves and the results were good but not great. If you like, scrub the carrot, sweet potato, and parsnip with a vegetable brush then prep. This coconut fiber brush is a favorite tool.
Cranberry sauce mixed with sriracha turns into a great pho-ish condiment that I eat like hoisin — to dip the turkey into. The spices, aromatics, and fish sauce tilt things toward a distinctive pho flavor and experience that hopefully, you’ll be extra thankful for!
Notes and related posts:
- Accessible mint is a classic pho herb that’s overlooked in America. Try it for a refreshing lift.
- If there’s not enough turkey meat for you, add half a boiled egg to each bowl.
- If you want to see a stockpot version of this recipe? Check out this turkey pho recipe and video that I worked on with Chefsteps.
- Instant Pot chicken pho recipe
Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Pho
After you feast on that Thanksgiving turkey, make pho! It’s a great way to use up leftovers and scraps. Keep things simple or serve optional extras at the table include 3 or 4 handfuls bean sprouts, 2 limes cut into wedges, 2 limes, cut into wedges, and/or 1 or 2 thinly sliced Thai, jalapeño, Fresno, or serrano chile.
I like to dip the turkey into the cranberry sauce-and-Sriracha mixture to avoid overwhelming the broth. But you may want to add it directly into your bowl. For extra details and to truly maste pho, check the "Pho Manual" and recipes in my book, The Pho Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2017).
- 2 to 2 1/2 pounds leftover roast turkey carcass, wings, drumsticks, and other unwanted parts
- 8 ounces raw sweet potato and/or carrot, cut into thumbnail-size chunks (1 1/2 to 2 cups total)
- 8 ounces raw parsnip, celery, carrot tops, and cabbage or cauliflower leaves, cut into thumbnail-size chunks or lengths (1 1/2 to 2 cups total)
- 1 cup (1 oz) coarsely chopped cilantro sprigs
- 1 medium-large (8 to 9 oz) yellow onion
- Chubby 2-inch (2 oz) section ginger, peeled, cut into thick slices, and bruised
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 1/2 anise (20 robust points total)
- 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 7 to 8 cups just-boiled (very hot) water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more as needed
- About 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 10 ounces dried narrow flat rice noodles (banh pho or pad Thai noodles), soaked in hot water until pliable then drained
- Turkey meat from making the broth
- 1/2 small (2 oz) yellow or red onion, thinly sliced, soaked in water for 10 minutes then well drained
- 2 thinly sliced green onions, green parts only
- 1/4 cup (.2 oz) chopped cilantro, leafy tops only
- Black pepper (optional)
- 1/2 cup cranberry sauce (whole berry or jelly) mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons sriracha
- 8 sprigs mint, optional
- Use your hands to break up the turkey backbone and wings (if using) into pieces that will fit into the pressure cooker. Quickly spray or rinse off impurities, especially in the backbone wells. Set aside in a bowl with the prepped vegetables (sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery, carrot tops, cabbage and cauliflower leaves) and cilantro. Set aside.
- Put the coriander seed, star anise, and cinnamon in a 6-quart pressure cooker. Over medium heat, toast the spices for several minutes, shaking or stirring, until very fragrant. (On a multicooker, use a high heat function, such as Saute and More for the InstantPot and Brown for the Fagor Lux.)
- Dump in the onion and ginger, stir for 45 to 60 seconds, until fragrant. Add 4 cups of the water to arrest the cooking process. Add the turkey and veggies, salt, and the remaining 3 to 4 cups water just to barely cover all the ingredients. Aim to fill about two-thirds of the pressure cooker.
- Lock the lid in place, then bring to high pressure. Cook for 15 minutes. When done, slide the cooker to a cool burner if you’re working with a stovetop cooker. Turn off and unplug a multicooker. Let a stovetop pressure cooker naturally depressurize naturally for 20 minutes (25 to 30 minutes for a multicooker). Manually release residual pressure.
- Rest 5 to 10 minutes to allow the bubbling action to subside. Transfer the turkey to a bowl, flush with cold water to cool, then pour off the water. Set aside to cool, and when manageable, harvest and cut or hand shred the meat into bite-size pieces (discard skin, bones, and any sinews). There should be a generous 1 1/2 cups (10 to 12 ounces). Set aside.
- Pour the broth through a muslin-lined mesh strainer positioned over a medium (3 or 4-quart) pot. Press on the solids to extra liquid. Discard the solids. Add water to make a total of 8 cups. Season with fish sauce, and if needed, extra salt. Aim for an extra savory finish. Cover to keep warm.
- Divide the noodles among 4 bowls. Meanwhile, bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat. At the same time, fill a pot with water and bring to a rolling boil for the noodles.
- For each bowl, place a portion of the noodles in a noodle strainer or mesh sieve and dunk in the boiling water. When the noodles are soft, pull the strainer from the water, shaking it to let water drain back into the pot. Empty the noodles into a bowl. Top with turkey, then add the onion, green onion, and cilantro. Finish with pepper.
- Over medium-high heat, bring the broth to a near boil, retaste and add salt, if needed. Raise the heat and bring to boil. Ladle about 2 cups of broth in a circular pattern into each bowl. Serve with cranberry hot sauce as a side for dipping the turkey. Tear mint leaves and drop into the bowls for zip.
Courses lunch, dinner