Leftovers. A word with negative connotations to many, but not to me. To some folks, the fridge-filling presence of something as big and challengingas the rest of the Thanksgiving turkey, or remains of the ham, or a mostly-finished rotisserie chicken is a burden, but consider revising that attitude.
I see such items as a head start on a brand-new meal, one which can happen without another trip to the store. At least step one can: putting that meaty hambone, or the everything-but-the-dressing turkey carcass, or rotisserie chicken remainders, into a big pot and adding water to cover. If there are onions or carrots left in the roasting pan, they can go in, too, and an inch of water over the top of the bones will do the trick. I bring it to a boil, then turn it down and let it go for about 2 hours, low and slow, until I have a golden-tinged savory flavorful pot full of possibilities. Turkey soup works just fine, and we loved our first round of leftover inspiration (see my Leftovers Round #1 post on banh mi HERE), but when I saw Garden and Gun Magazine’s feature on turkey bone gumbo, that’s what I decided to make.
Journalist Francine Maroukian wrote Garden and Gun‘s feature on Day-After Gumbo from the kitchen of Chef Justin Devillier, of La Petite Grocery located in New Orleans, which is the mother ship of gumbo goodness. His recipe is user-friendly and focused. He starts his gumbo Thanksgiving evening, putting the turkey bones in a stock pot to simmer through the night. Next morning he adds onion, garlic, some andouille sausage and thyme and other fragrant flavorful items, and lets it simmer for a few hours to gumbo goodness. Devillier pairs his gumbo with traditional rice or potato salad, and his personal Thanksgiving favorite, cornbread dressing.
I made my stock on Friday morning, adding water to cover the bones, but I pulled out the carcass once it had heated up nicely, about 30 minutes in. I pulled off about 2/3 of the best meat, returned everything including skin to the pot, and simmered it on for 2 or 3 hours.
I chilled it all overnight, and then made my gumbo on Saturday morning. Chef Devillier’s recipe is simpler than some gumbos, which was lovely as I had many things to do over the weekend. I cut his recipe amounts back some, using about half of what he called for, and cooking my gumbo for just about an hour and a half. We were ready for it then, and were so pleased: This second-time-around turkey remix gumbo was really truly good.
We stuck to rice, though I’ve had gumbo with potato salad and loved it, and I would give cornbread dressing a whirl; but I think gumbo and dressing each deserves full focus and I would probably go for something more plain, like noodles, couscous, or mashed potatoes, if looking to go outside the gumbo-pairing box.
Yes, I realize Thanksgiving 2014 is now history, and we are heading into the high baking season: but I’ll be roasting at least one more turkey during the holidays, and probably having a bone-in ham, so here’s the scoop. Meaty bones are not leftovers: they are keys to more wonderful meals. Besides, you don’t even need a turkey carcass for this kind of gumbo: Save up about 3 rotisserie chicken in the freezer and then pull out the stockpot once you’re ready to rock and roll. We still have tonight’s supper’s worth of gumbo on hand, and it’s a fact that gumbo gets better after a day in the fridge. I do have to go to the store now, because we are out of rice.