Pictured: Rhonda, Carol’s newest chicken. I have no idea what kind she is, but she’s the funniest and fluffiest thing I’ve ever seen!
Pictured: Lydia saying “hello” to one of her mother’s hens. Or, what I like to think of as photographic evidence of the bird that pecked Lydia’s finger only moments later.
Pictured: Lydia and her beloved dog “Boo” (as in “Boo Radley”)–a regular source of entertainment.
Pictured: The delicious day-after Thanksgiving gumbo made with plenty of leftovers.
When it was time to eat, I had heard the story of the family’s Thanksgiving bird several times. Originally sent out to buy a 12-14 lb. bird, Carol’s husband Bob (or “BYOB” as we call him) picked up a pre-basted 21lb. bird that just wasn’t what Carol or I had originally planned for (initially, we had discussed frying a turkey). A 21 lb. bird is simply too big to place in a standard fryer and pre-basted skin reacts poorly with any frying oil. But I’m a big believer in happy mistakes and could not have been more thrilled with how Carol handled the Thanksgiving bird: after a slow roast in her new oven, the turkey was moist, flavorful, and so juicy that I kept having to remind myself it was roasted and not fried like we had originally planned. The great thing about a pre-basted butterball is that it doesn’t need to be brined (an overnight waiting process in which you let the bird tenderize in a salt water solution), but rather is pre-prepared for the home cook who wants flavor without all of the fuss. (I was so inspired by Carol’s take on a classic roasted turkey that you’ll be seeing my own version of a roast turkey later this week.)
At the end of the day, the food was delicious and the turkey was unlike any roasted bird I’ve had before (no need for gravy or helpings necessary to choke it down–you could simply cut it with your fork). And, the next day, Carol suggested we make gumbo from all of the leftover meat. Louisiana gumbo is a classic holiday dish served regularly between Thanksgiving and New Years. It’s one of those great one-pot wonders that, when served over rice, feeds a ton of people. Although Carol was only cooking for six, this gumbo yields enough servings to feed six people two to three times over. Adapted from a recipe she’s consistently relied on when cooking with one of her friends, Carol’s gumbo embodies all the things I love about real Cajun cooking: the innovative-ness south Louisiana Cajuns have become known for (using leftover ingredients to create something great, for example) as well as the dark aromatic broth made slightly nutty by a traditional oil and flour roux.
For this holiday and the next, try a simple gumbo with your day-after turkey meat.
Yield: about 15 servings
Prep Time: 85 minutes
Cook Time: 80 minutes
This recipe has been adapted from Ken Wheaton’s book The First Annual Grand Praerie Rabbit Festival. Carol substituted chicken for turkey and doubled many of the proportions given the large amounts of leftover poultry we had from Thanksgiving. Additionally, she used okra instead of filé to thicken her broth as well as a handful of new spices and ingredient substitutions. For the original, see here, but for Carol’s, keep reading.
*2 lbs. pre-cooked turkey, shredded or cubed
*3 lbs. andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch circular rounds
*1 lb. tasso, cubed
*4 small onions, chopped
*10 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
*3 celery ribs, diced
*2 bell peppers, diced
*2 cups plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
*2 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
*2 bay leaves
*2 sprigs thyme, plus more to taste
*1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
*Salt and pepper, to taste
*2 lbs. frozen okra
*2 tablespoons D’Zo’s salt-less Cajun seasoning
*1 tablespoon hot sauce, plus more to taste
–For the Broth–
For a fabulous chicken/poultry broth primer, see previous post here
*1 onion, quartered
*5 garlic cloves, whole and peeled
*1 piece of celery, quartered
*2 bay leaves
*8 quarts water (7.5 liters or 32 cups)
1.) Prep ingredients: Shred, cut, and/or cube first three ingredients (turkey, andouille, and tasso). Reserve for gumbo.
2.) Prep vegetables: Chop, mince, and dice next four ingredients. Reserve for gumbo.
3.) Make Roux: In a large cast iron skillet, whisk together equal parts canola oil and flour. Since you’re making a Cajun roux, you’ll need to spend extra time darkening the mixture—it should be dark brown (not “blond”) when preparing your stock. Over medium heat, whisk roux until dark brown (about 30-45 minutes based on cooking temperature and roux preference; for an excellent primer on all things “different” when it comes to Cajun and Creole cooking, please see Jay Ducote’s smart and succinct discussion of the two here).
Note: Wheaton advocates that since a traditional Cajun roux takes significantly longer to prepare (because of the time needed to deepen the roux’s color and flavor), you can add the flour and oil to a cast iron skillet and place it in an oven set to 350F, walk away, and let the mixture cook for two hours. This process means “no hovering, stirring, or nothing!” Feel free to use this step if you wish to avoid hovering over the stove for an extended amount of time, or do as Carol did with the regular whisking method. Personally, I find the oven roux to be a huge time savor (in fact, this process is followed by the Gumbo Shop in New Orleans), but I also appreciate a dish that has a lot of love and attention go into it even if that means standing over a pot and stirring for some time.
4.) Prepare broth while roux is browning: Place turkey carcass (plus leftover meat) in a large pot of water with quartered onion, garlic cloves, quartered celery, 2 bay leaves, and 8 quarts water (7.5 liters or 32 cups). Bring to a boil and simmer for one and a half hours until the water is well infused and a foamy mixture covers the surface. Transfer meat to a bowl and cool. Pick meat and fat off turkey bones and reserve for gumbo. Discard bones.
5.) Strain broth and discard vegetable pieces. Remove fat from broth by using a gravy separator or the plastic bag method (Wheaten sums the plastic bag method up this way: 1 – transfer cooled broth to a large plastic freezer bag. 2 – when broth separates from fat, snip the tip of the bag off and pour broth into a pot or bowl (reserving it for the gumbo). 3 – keep fat in plastic bag and reserve for a later recipe.)
6.) In an over-sized soup pot, add 2 tablespoons butter or canola oil. Add onions and cook until tender or translucent (about 8-10 minutes). Add celery and bell pepper and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds to a 1 minute). Finally, add roux to pot, mix to integrate, and simmer on medium-low heat for five minutes.
7.) Assemble gumbo: Add turkey, andouille, and tasso to the pot. Sauté mixture for 10-15 minutes adding water or white wine if the mixture gets too thick and needs moisture. Slowly whisk in chicken broth to pot, add remaining bay leaves, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, okra, and hot sauce. Cover pot and simmer for an hour. Taste and adjust spices as necessary (Carol added salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, and extra hot sauce as needed).
Remove bay leaves and serve over cooked rice. Makes 12-15 servings.
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Written by: Helana Brigman