Dec 1, 2010

So Long, Turkey!

On one hand, it's sad that all the time and effort put into the Thanksgiving turkey has come down to these bags o' bones.
Pitiful.  Isn't it?

On the other hand, every chapter must end so another can begin.

Or something smart and wise like that.

I decided to use the Thanksgiving turkey carcass to carry on a South Louisiana tradition: the Post Holiday Turkey Gumbo.  My turkey gumbo turned out to be a mix of ideas I ripped off of various family members.  But is it really stealing if it's done out of love?  Let's call it a tribute...yeah, a tribute.  That's it.

The Husband is usually the gumbo maker here. 
We love his chicken & andouille gumbo.  Like a lot. 
So I was nervous about changing things up, yet I wanted my gumbo to be different.

That's where my little "tributes" come in...because I wasn't creative enough on my own.


First a nod to my Cajun heritage--the fact that we make do with what we have, waste nothing, and turn mere scraps into fantastic meals.

It starts by making a stock from the turkey bones.  Lots of people around here make gumbo after Thanksgiving and/or Christmas with their turkey carcasses.  Pick as much meat off as possible and reserve a few cups for the gumbo.

Then add some standard stock-making ingredients.    

The stock can be made ahead of time.  The benefit would be that it can chill and the fat will solidify.  Easy to scrape off before using.  The down side is that the stock has to be hot when it's added to the roux or the roux may separate.

Here's a step by step for making stock.  I didn't simmer the turkey stock all day, just 1 1/2-2 hours.  It will cook down more in the gumbo.

The next phase is making the roux and cooking the vegetable base.  Before starting the roux, make sure the vegetables are chopped and ready.  If you're still chopping away when the roux is ready to greet onions and celery and bell pepper, you'll have yourself a pot of burned roux.  And that's a bad way to greet anything.  Onions, celery, etc. can all be chopped ahead of time--even days ahead.

Make a roux by heating oil in a cast iron or stainless steel pot.  Non-stick doesn't work for this.  When the oil is hot, sprinkle in the flour.  I like to start with equal parts oil and flour.  But I always add more flour.  The oil will probably form pools.  Sprinkle additional flour over these pools and keep on cookin'.

Did I ever tell you about the first time I made gumbo on my own?  I was impatient while making the roux.  I thought my arm would fall off from the stirring (even though it had only been about 15 minutes before I called it quits).  This is the roux I decided to go with:
It was an anemic, disgusting pot of gruel.   
And now I fear I've lost my kitchen cred.

But wait!  Give me a chance to redeem myself.  This is how far I've come:

Here's a step by step for making a beautiful, dark gumbo worthy roux.

Once your roux is the color you'd like (brick red? chocolate?  Come on!  You can do it!), quickly add the chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic.  Saute until they are soft.  
The Husband always whirrs his vegetables up in the food processor before cooking.  While that seems to extract more flavor, it does produce a thinner gumbo.  I decided to give mom some props and chop by hand.

While the veg softens, it's time to get everything else in order.

I decided to throw in some of my New Orleans/Creole background and add tomatoes.  Even though The Husband never adds them.

But I didn't shun The Husband's ways completely.  He browns the sausage before adding it to his gumbo.  It helps render some of the fat which keeps it out of the gumbo.  And it makes the sausage more flavorful.

Next a shout out to my youngest brother, who adds dried herbs to his gumbo.  The herbs give his gumbo these background flavors--flavors that make people say "what is that?"  But not like "what the hell is that?"  More like "wow what is that?"

Everything goes in the pot and simmers for an hour or more. 

Serve over rice.  Add green onions and/or parsley for garnish if you'd like.  Pass file (Fee-lay) powder at the table.

* Always add file powder to individual servings.  If it's cooked, it can get stringy.
* I'm often asked if gumbo can be frozen.  Yes, it can.  But keep the rice separate.

Linked to:

The Ultimate Soup Recipe List ~ Linky Party
What's On the Menu Wednesday @ Dining With Debbie
Tip Day Thursday Carnival @ Around My Family Table
Saturday’s Party @ Recipes of a Cheapskate
Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays @ Kahakai Kitchen

Also linking with Tailgating Game Week #13 @ Drick's Rambling Cafe

featuring Thanksgiving recipes this week

Post Holiday Turkey Gumbo

from Ms. enPlace

For the Stock:

1 turkey carcass, picked of meat

2 large onions, unpeeled and quartered

3-4 stalks celery, quartered

5 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed

2-3 carrots, quartered

vegetable trimmings and peels from the gumbo ingredients below

Place the turkey carcass (cracked apart) along with the other ingredients in a stock pot. Cover with cold water. Bring JUST to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours. All day simmering isn’t required since this will simmer further in the gumbo. The stock can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. The stock should be heated before adding to the gumbo to prevent separating the roux.
For the Roux & Vegetable Base:

2 large onions, or a few smaller ones

3 stalks celery

1 bell green pepper

5-6 cloves garlic

¾ c vegetable oil

3-4-1 cup all purpose flour

If possible, chop all of the vegetables before making the stock and use the peels and trimmings in the stock. Have everything chopped and ready before starting the roux.

In a cast iron or stainless steel pot (not non-stick cookware), heat the oil. Test by sprinkling in a pinch of flour. If the flour sinks, continue heating the oil. If the flour bubbles, sprinkle in ¾ c of flour. Slowly stir and scrape the flour, moving the mixture constantly. If pools of oil form on the surface, sprinkle additional flour over them. Continue stirring and scraping until the roux is brick red or light chocolate colored. Immediately add the chopped vegetables to stop the roux from burning. Sauté the vegetables until softened. If necessary, add ¼-1/2 cup hot stock or water to help cook down the vegetables.

For the Gumbo:

10 c turkey stock

1 lb smoked sausage, cut in half moons and browned

3-4 cups chopped leftover turkey

1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes

1-2 bay leaves

¾ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano

1 ½ tsp salt, or to taste

½ tsp black pepper, or to taste

¾-1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

Add the stock to the vegetable-roux mixture and stir to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1-2 hours (the longer the better--can be prepared ahead and refrigerated or frozen). Taste for seasoning before serving, keeping in mind that serving over rice will dilute seasonings.

For Serving:

chopped green onions and/or parsley

cooked white rice

filé powder
About 5 minutes before serving, add the green onions and/or parsley to the pot. Serve gumbo over a scoop of cooked white rice, topped with additional green onion and/or parsley if desired. Pass filé powder at the table and add to individual servings.

* If freezing gumbo, keep the rice separate so it doesn’t become mushy.

* If using filé, don’t add it to the pot. When (re)heated, file can become stringy. Sprinkle over individual servings instead.


  1. You combined everyone's ideas beautifully!

  2. I had gumbo for the first time this past weekend in Vegas. It was awesome. I loved it. And I know Vegas isn't the South so it's probably not as good as yours. Humour me. I'm positive your gumbo is better.

  3. Those bags 'o bones really became something special, didn't they? I love it when you have scraps, bits and pieces of this and that, and you can put together a great meal like this gumbo. I think it's one of the most rewarding things about cooking.

    P.S. That's a mighty fine dark chocolate roux you got there!

  4. Way to breathe new life into that turkey! You definitely turned those "pitiful bones" into something wonderful.

  5. Yum, YUM! Love your turkey gumbo tribute! But this time after the holiday, I'm good and sick of reheating the leftovers ... so this is a great way to make them seem new and inviting.

    My leftover turkey is bagged up and chilling out in the freezer ... perhaps some of it will be turned into gumbo this year. :)

    Hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday!!


  6. Mmm...I have a craving for some gumbo right now! ;-) It looks so hearty and good. Thanks for sending it to Souper Sundays.

  7. Yum - now that looks like a seriously good way to use up the leftover turkey :-)

  8. Oh, yes...I will be making this after Christmas! Thanks for linking up to Tip Day Thursday at Around My Family Table.


  9. Thanks, everyone!

  10. okay, tears are forming in my eyes as my mouth is watering... first, with your utilizing the carcass and the melding with the veggies, and then there it is... OMG...died, right now, in Gumbo heaven with that beautiful roux - at some point, I am gonna get time from work, and when I do, I am spending it on your site.... enjoying some of the best in southern cuisine ...


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