Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Totally Gobblesome

So you eat the turkey, and you have some leftovers; if you're lucky, there's some meat on the bones. All the little glossies hanging out on the newstand this month will give you lots of ideas about how to use the remains of your feast, but this--this is what you should make. Turkey gumbo.

I mean no sacrilege by discussing gumbo on the soup loop. I know it's not proper to call gumbo "soup." I'm just saying. I want you to try this.

Gumbo can take all day, but it doesn't have to. Now that I live in New Orleans and have talked cooking with lots of folks, I don't feel like I'm cheating with roux from a jar. It isn't a sacrilege here. Again, I'm just saying; you can certainly make your own roux if so inclined (see the Taggert recipe, below, for instructions). And if you find turkey stock at the store, such as Kitchen Basics brand (they do make it!), you can save yourself even more time. If not, simmer your turkey carcass for 45 minutes to an hour in 6 quarts of chicken broth to "turkey" it up (or simmer the carcass in 8 quarts of water with an onion, bay leaf, a few carrots, and a few celery stalks for 3 to 4 hours to yield about 6 quarts of stock). If you simmer bones to make your stock, make sure you strain it well, through a very fine sieve, lined with cheesecloth if you have it.

Paul is an excellent gumbo cook. Every one of his gumbos has made me smile and wonder and learn about flavor building, but this turkey version--his first turkey gumbo--was the best I've ever had. We used Chuck Taggert's recipe as a starting point and adapted it according to our preferences and energy level. At our house, we enjoy throwing meaty bones into large pots and letting the meat decide when it's ready to come off, so you see a large thigh bone in the photo. Nice. Unless you have a houseful of people, freeze some. You'll have gumbo all winter.

Paul's Turkey Gumbo Yumbo
  • 1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced into rounds about 1/2" thick
  • 1/2 pound tasso, minced (see Notes)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared roux, such as Savoie's
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil, butter, or a combination
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 5 ribs celery, chopped
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 quarts turkey stock
  • about 1 pound leftover turkey, chopped, or 2-3 pounds turkey on the bone
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • Creole seasoning, to taste
  • 2 pounds fresh okra, sliced about 1 1/2" thick (it will shrink as it cooks)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • few dashes Tabasco, to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • cooked white rice, for serving

In a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sausage and tasso for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally (you can do this without adding any oil or butter, or you can add some oil or butter, darn it, if you like). After the first five minutes, when some brown bits start to collect in the pan, we like to add a big shot of whiskey to the pan to enhance the caramelization process. It tastes nice. Drain and set aside.

In the gumbo pot (10-12 quarts), heat the roux over medium heat until it's bubbling, stirring almost constantly. This will take about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, over medium heat, saute the onions, scallions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in a little oil and/or butter in the pan you used to brown the sausage, just enough to soften--about 7 minutes. When the roux starts to simmer, add the vegetables to the gumbo pot and stir to coat them with roux. Add the stock and stir well. Add the sausage, tasso, turkey & bones with turkey, bay leaves, and Creole seasoning. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and let simmer about 30 minutes, tasting & adjusting the seasoning from time to time. Keep stirring the pot from the bottom so nothing starts sticking and burning.

Add the okra and simmer another 30 minutes. Add the parsley, Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste, simmering for about 15 more minutes, until it's just right. Skim off any fat that you can, and remove the bones that are just being bones at this point. You can take big bones out and remove the meat yourself if you like, but that will probably happen tomorrow on its own when you reheat it for supper.

Serve in large shallow bowls with a scoop of steaming hot rice.

Serves about 16.


Tasso is a very smoky, spiced cured pork shoulder used as flavoring in Cajun & Creole dishes. If it's not available, substitute a suitable amount of highly flavored pork, like bacon, pancetta, or ham.

Don't be tempted to throw the backbone of the turkey into the gumbo pot. Instead, use it to make your stock, straining very well. The problem is that the vertebrae can completely come apart, making for some unwanted bone-biting while you're eating; thus, we omit the backbone from the pot of food.

You'll be sad if you don't have some good French bread to eat with this.

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