There has been a tradition in our family for a number of years now of making gumbo with our leftover turkey on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving until we’ve made gumbo.
My aunt even brings her own container to take it home in when she comes to visit. This year she was unable to join us, but we were thinking of her while we made it. If we could ship it long distances, it would be on its way to Florida as I type.
I claim a pretty mixed-bag of southern roots. I was born in Mississippi and raised in Georgia (spending large portions of my childhood summers in the Mississippi countryside). My mother was born in Texas and grew up between Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Her mother was born and raised in Louisiana, and her father was born and raised in Mississippi. My father’s people are strictly Mississippi as far as I know (although now we’re all scattered throughout the US). Needless to say, my heritage is southern, through and through.
This particular recipe hearkens back to my Louisiana decedents. It is a pretty even mixture of the Cajun and Creole versions as it uses both a brown roux and file powder as thickeners, and it has a tomato base. Sometimes we add shrimp, sometimes not (this version is completely sans seafood), but we always add andouille sausage for extra flavor – this year we’re using my house-made andouille and fresh turkey stock.
|Turkey neck, backbones and carcass simmering away with celery, onion and carrot to make a lovely dark turkey stock.
You can throw in pretty much anything you might have on hand, meat-wise. One year we added wild duck to the mix because my cousin had bagged a few on a recent hunting trip. When we are in Florida for the holiday (although it has been admittedly too long since we’ve gotten down there for Thanksgiving), we add lots of seafood. If you’ve got venison, toss it in there. The beauty of gumbo is that it’s a perfect vehicle for using up various bits of leftovers you might have lying around the fridge and freezer.
Now, I like okra in my gumbo, but my mother does not. As she will be enjoying the final product with us, we will not be adding okra to this pot. However, please feel free to add it to yours – it can only make it better (in my oh-so humble opinion).
The bones of this recipe are adapted from David Rosengarten’s Dean and Deluca cookbook. If you’re familiar with Mr. Rosengarten, you know he is quite the food historian; therefore, I trust his recipes for their authenticity and their consistency. The adaptations here are that I use turkey stock in place of seafood stock or clam juice, and I use turkey in place of the crawfish he suggests. Otherwise, I follow his recipe pretty closely.
Spicy Red File-Thickened Gumbo
with Turkey and Andouille
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 4 hours
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 cups minced onion
2 cups minced celery
1 cup minced green bell pepper
1 cup minced red bell pepper
1 cup minced scallions or green onions
2 quarts plus 1 cup turkey stock
two 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1-2 pounds andouille sausage, cut in 1/4-inch slices
1-2 pounds cooked turkey meat
1-2 tablespoons file powder
cooked rice as an accompaniment
Heat stock in a large stock-pot.
|Flour and oil, before they have become a dark roux
In a large skillet, make roux by combining oil and flour. Stir constantly with a flat wooden spoon or a roux whisk over medium-low heat until mixture turns a redish-brown color. If you think it is getting too brown or about to burn, immediately remove it from the heat.
|Dark, reddish brown roux
Add chopped garlic, onions, peppers, celery and green onion to the roux to stop the cooking.
Add the roux to the hot stock and whisk to combine. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cayenne and cloves. Now add the sausage and the turkey.
Let simmer over low heat for 3 hours or more.
Serve over boiled rice. Add hot-sauce, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of file powder to individual bowls. Do not add file powder to gumbo while it is cooking, as it will result in a stringy-textured end product.
I recommend this as a different way to use up that leftover turkey you’ve got taking up space in your fridge. You’ll probably still have some left for turkey sandwiches, but this will give new life to what might otherwise be considered boring Thanksgiving leftovers.