Serious Eats: Recipes

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Gumbo

Editor's Note: A couple of weeks ago I saw the fine writer Sara Roahen give a talk at the Southern Foodways Symposium on boudin, the pork, liver, and rice sausage most often found in the Louisiana countryside. She was smart, articulate, funny, and self-deprecating, so when she was finished I asked if she would like to contribute to Serious Eats. In honor of Thanksgiving, here's Sara's take on turkey gumbo. We hope you'll be hearing more from Sara on Serious Eats in the coming months. Her book, Gumbo Tales, is coming out in February, and we will definitely be giving it away. It's a terrific book. —Ed

Words and Recipes by Sara Roahen | Last Thanksgiving, which arrived a long month and a half after my reluctant departure from New Orleans, I resolved to kick my homesickness (I had lived in New Orleans for seven years) by injecting a new tradition into my Wisconsin family's holiday feasting: turkey bone gumbo. I imported andouille from Jacob's World Famous Andouille & Sausage in La Place, Louisiana, and I used Louisiana bay leaves, which are fresher and mellower than the ones sold in small jars in most grocery store spice aisles. I also made a potato salad with green onion mayonnaise from Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, which my husband, Matt, and I like to eat in our gumbo. Many Louisianians approve of this pairing, and so did many in our Wisconsin crowd. So much so that this year, even though my Thanksgiving visit came two weeks early, we held our second-annual Roahen turkey bone gumbo dinner. Thirty people attended. Only one complained openly about my liberal use of cayenne.

part of a Serious ThanksgivingThough this year we roasted a turkey so that we would have a carcass so that we could have gumbo again, usually turkey bone gumbo is something of an afterthought: what one cooks in order to make good use of the entire Thanksgiving bird once it has become carnage. The same method could be--and is in Louisiana--applied to any fowl or game. One of the most exhilarating gumbos I've tasted came from the pot of my friend and food enthusiast Brooks Hamaker, a Louisiana native. If ever I doubted his claims of being a huntsman, he earned my respect with the feather that I pulled from my teeth while enjoying his deep, dark Mardi Gras duck gumbo one year.

It's amazing how much meat falls off the most meticulously carved turkey carcass after two hours in a simmering stock pot. And the stock produced is so flavorful that turkey bone gumbo requires little more than a robust roux, some seasoning vegetables, and ample salt and pepper. I like to brighten it up with filé powder and lemon juice just before serving, though both additions are optional.

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