While bone broth is indeed a tasty and healing ingredient, here’s a shortcut. Cook meat on the bone, as below, and in one pot you’ll create both the stock and the stew. From The Whole Bowl: Gluten-free, Dairy-free Soups and Stews, by Rebecca Wood and Leda Scheintaub. Countryman Press, 2015.
Pre-conquest ingredients were gluten and dairy free, turkey was the bird in the pot, and yucca was a staple starchy ingredient in Central America. That makes upstarts of the onion, garlic, chicken, pasta, dairy, carrots, celery, and olive oil that appear in many contemporary Yucatan chicken soups. If you can’t imagine this soup without garlic or onions, scratch history and include them—but our version is the real deal and quite wonderful.
While yucca root is mild flavored, its silky smooth starch adds an ambiance to other soup ingredients that rivals the mighty potato. When purchasing yucca, pick one that is firm, well formed, and blemish-free with a clean, fresh scent. Store whole yucca in a cool, dark, dry place for up to a week. Or peel, cover with water, and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
This soup is perfect for those times when there’s no stock on hand but you’re looking for the inimitable heft a good bone stock gives a dish. If your market doesn’t offer turkey thighs, use chicken. While Mexican oregano is similarly flavored to Mediterranean oregano, they’re unrelated, with the Mexican variety featuring both citrus and licorice notes.
Turkey thigh soup is decidedly home-style, with bits of cartilage inevitably ending up in the soup. If company is coming, you may bypass the potential gristle issue by substituting turkey breast for the thigh and using bone stock instead of water. While this soup is great au blanc, you may first brown the thigh.
While yucca is exquisite in this soup, you may substitute a yam or potato for the yucca.
1 bone-in, skin-on pastured turkey thigh (or substitute 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs)
2 yucca roots (about 2 cups cubed)
2 tomatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 poblano chile, roasted and chopped
2 serrano chiles, roasted and chopped
1 ½ teaspoons unrefined salt, or to taste
4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, preferably Mexican oregano (see Sidebar below), or 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped
Place the turkey thigh in a large saucepan. Add water to cover, cover the pot, and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, skimming off and discarding any foam that forms at the top.
Meanwhile, peel the yucca, cut it into 2-inch lengths, then cut the lengths in half vertically. Remove the small central fibrous core, slice the pieces lengthwise, and chop. Add the yucca, tomatoes, chiles, and salt to the pan. Return to a simmer, then cover and simmer for about 2 hours, until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender and the yucca has partially dissolved, leaving behind meltingly soft nubbins with a pleasing slightly gummy texture.
Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the thigh and place it on plate. Once it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bone (reserve both for bone stock) and cut or tear the meat into bite-size pieces. Return the turkey to the soup, add the oregano, and reheat if needed. Add the lime juice. Taste; if it’s too sour, add more salt. Spoon into bowls, garnish with avocado, and serve.
Sidebar: Mexican Oregano: An Invaluable Herb for South of the Border Soups and Stews
Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens), also known as Puerto Rican oregano, is a member of lemon verbena family and grows as a shrub or small tree throughout Central and South America. Its taste is similar to a vibrant savory with citrusy and licorice-like flavors, and it is widely valued for its culinary and medicinal uses; the latter includes antiviral and antimicrobial properties. The more common Mediterranean oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a member of the mint family.
Fresh Mexican oregano has some availability in regional markets and it is easily cultivated from seed or cuttings. Dried Mexican oregano is readily available in Western, Southwestern, Mexican, and international markets as well as online.