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Turkey stock is ‘crucial’ to holiday meal prep

Turkey stock may be to the Thanksgiving feast what Windex was to the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”: A miracle cure-all elixir. So useful is it that journalist Sam Sifton calls it “a Thanksgiving secret weapon” that can carry you from pre-feast prep to the inevitable question of what to do with the leftover carcass days after the holiday.

“Having a lot of turkey stock on hand is crucial to the preparation of a good Thanksgiving meal,” writes Sifton in his new book, “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well” (Random House, $18). “It ought to be the first thing you prepare, in fact, on Thursday morning, if not before.”

Sifton, a former New York Times restaurant critic and now the newspaper’s national editor, offers three ways to make turkey stock: quick, serious, and the next day.

Quick stock

1 turkey neck

1 Spanish onion, peeled, cut in half

1 large carrot, peeled, cut into large pieces

1 rib celery, cleaned, cut into large pieces

Put neck, onion, carrot and celery in a medium saucepan; cover with cold water. Place the pot over high heat; heat to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer all day.

Serious stock

2 turkey drumsticks

2 turkey wings

2 large Spanish onions, peeled, cut in half

2 large carrots, peeled, cut into large pieces

2 ribs celery, cut into large pieces

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns

Place turkey parts in a large baking dish; cook in a 400-degree oven until they are golden, with the skin beginning to separate from the end of the drumsticks, about 30 minutes.

Transfer turkey parts and all accumulated fat and juices to a large stockpot. Cover turkey with water; heat to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover and simmer for as long as you can manage, even overnight.

Add the vegetables, bay leaves, thyme and pepper; cook, 1 hour; strain stock into a clean container. Cover and place in refrigerator. When cool, pull off the layer of fat on top; discard. Keeps three to four days refrigerated, or freeze and thaw before using. Reheat on Thanksgiving morning and use all day.

Next-day stock

Take what remains of your bird and break it up so it can fit into a large stockpot. Add 3 ribs roughly chopped celery and a large Spanish onion cut into quarters. Cover with water. Heat to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook, barely stirring, at least 4 hours, or overnight. In time the bones will release their marrow and roasted flavor, imparting to the stock a dark and incomparable heartiness.