Monday, November 29, 2010

The Tail of the Turkey Gumbo

 It is pretty much an unwritten rule that "gumbo" is made with your leftover turkey and carcass in Louisiana.  The cookbook above was a wedding gift to Gary and I (22 years ago) and it is a small cookbook that has the recipe just about every type of gumbo you can possibly imagine.  As you can see, it has gotten quite a bit of use...particularly this recipe!

Every gumbo starts with a roux....this is the french 
name for equal parts of flour and oil, butter or bacon drippings that are 
stirred together over slow steady heat.  It takes about 
thirty minutes, but the flour turns a dark golden brown and 
the bonus is the great smell you get from making roux.
I don't know of a person who hasn't "burned the roux", even
I, maker of a thousand rouxs am constantly on guard as you must 
continually stir or your beautiful, golden brown, bubbly mixture
becomes a blackened mess. This usually happens about twenty
minutes into the process when you are starting to relax and 
think you've got this in the bag, and you are 
left to start over again for another
round of stirring and fretting! 

In addition to the roux, the next step to a really good gumbo
is......the stock.
Here is where you put anything and everything that is about to 
go bad in your refrigerator.  All veggies (the required
ones are garlic, celery, onion, and bell pepper) the leftover carcass,
leftover gravies, whole sprigs of herbs, and of course
Tony Chacheres and seasonings of your choice.

Once you have simmered this until the meat is falling off the
bone, then you drain it.  If you don't have enough
leftover turkey, throw some chicken breast or in
our case, since we are big duck hunters, whole ducks.
Let the meat cool and now is the part I detest..
which is picking the meat off the bone for the gumbo.  
I don't know why I don't like it, but I think it 
is because, I am always in a hurry and can't wait for it 
to properly cool, so I often burn my fingers.  

After you drain your stock, you have a beautiful, rich
thick broth that taste devine.

Now for the fun part.....mixing your vegetables into the roux!
I love this because a) I am getting closer to eating a bowl of gumbo
and b) it smells even better then making the roux.  Here, I have
a mixture of  ham, sausage, onions, celery, garlic, bell pepper, okra, turnips, and
a package of crawfish that I stirred into the roux.  You can just do the Cajun Holy Trinity
(bell pepper, onion and celery) here or you can check out your refrigerator
and throw in the Kitchen Sink as I did.  You will want to stir over low heat
until the veggies are slightly cooked....THEN

It is time to put it all together, simmer about another half hour to an hour,
cook some rice and serve.  Gumbo is served over rice and 
true cajuns must have file (cajun spice) sprinkled over it. 

Now I have been making gumbo for two decades so the recipe above 
is how I have adapted many recipes and rolled them into one.....
I do use butter for my roux where as most folks 
use oil or bacon grease. 

 I read John Folse's "After the Hunt" cookbook 
(an unbelievably beautifully illustrated, wonderful cookbook)
and he said the traditional cajuns used butter and after testing it out,
I think it makes the gumbo much better. (although probably not healthier)

For those that don't want to wing it with Gumbo, I am going to include this recipe that I refer to 
when making turkey gumbo as it has proportions and actual measurements!  Once you have made a few gumbos, you become more confident about "mixing it up"
Turkey bones (with 1-2 pounds of meat let on)
Water to cover (about two quarts) if you have leftover white wine or some beer ~ add that too
2 teaspoons of spice (Tonys, or another type of all spice) or salt and pepper
Two onions chopped, 1 bell pepper chopped, 3 stalks celery chopped, 1 1/2 teaspoon of garlic chopped
1 (1 pound) can tomatoes chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1 pound of ham 
1 pound of sausage

To make stock, do as I said above (Cook about 1 1/2 hours) Drain and reserve broth
Make your roux
Add vegetables and meats to cooked roux
Stir until vegetables are wilted - they don't have to be completely done
Mix reserved meat, broth and roux/veggie mix together and simmer at least 1/2 hour

TIP:  They now make Gumbo seasoning that you can buy at most any grocery store,  I do all the above and when I am letting the gumbo mixture simmer at the end, I add about 1/2 pack and find it gives my gumbo a really good flavor.  You do have to look for one that doesn't have the rice in the mixture.  I just started doing this and it really pushed it "over the top" and when you are in a pinch, you don't have to simmer quite as long to get a good flavor.  

Don't kid yourself ~ Gumbo is about a three hour process if you do it right....but it is sooo good and it freezes well too!  You can make this recipe with any meat....chicken, fish, really doesn't matter; it is all good! When I make it, I do two huge pots and have lots for the freezer......we like to have those freezers good and full before hurricane season!!!!! For those of you that don't live in LA (that is a JOKE....but unfortunately is true and we are left powerless for days, trying to eat everything in the freezer before it goes bad!

Now ~ go make it a great day, clean out your Thanksgiving leftovers and 
Let me know how it turns out! 

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