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.
Though 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.
- Turkey Bone Gumbo
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, diced into ¼-inch cubes
- 3 to 4 bay leaves
- 6 cups turkey stock
- Reserved turkey meat from making stock
- 2 to 3 cups chopped leftover turkey meat
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
- 1/2 tablespoon filé powder
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Turkey Stock
- 1 turkey carcass
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 springs thyme
- 2 to 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 gallon water, or enough to cover carcass
Turkey Bone Gumbo
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Whisk in flour and continue to stir constantly—either with a whisk or a wooden spoon—until roux turns a deep, dark chocolate brown (or another shade of your liking). This should take around 30 minutes. If you sense that your roux is in danger of burning, reduce heat immediately and continue to stir.
Once roux has reached desired shade, carefully stir in onions, bell pepper, and celery, and continue to stir about 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to wilt. Be prepared: when cold vegetables hit hot roux, they emit a cloud of steam and a loud hissing. Add salt, cayenne, and sausage, and continue to cook about 5 minutes.
Add bay leaves and stock, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Add turkey and continue to simmer uncovered for 2 hours.
Add black pepper and taste; adjust seasoning. Thin out with more stock or water if necessary. Just before serving, add parsley, green onions, and lemon juice. In order to properly incorporate filé powder, mix it first with a few tablespoons of stock; stir to a smooth consistency and then add to gumbo.
Serve with white rice, and potato salad if desired.
Cut or break carcass into smaller pieces and place in a large stock pot. Add vegetables, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, and water. Place pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about two hours. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
Drain stock, reserving liquid. Once solids have cooled to a manageable temperature, pick through and reserve any turkey meat that has fallen off the bones. See that no turkey meat remains on the carcass. Set meat aside for gumbo.