If you’ve had a great re-do of yesterday’s Big Turkey Dinner, and are on to Sandwiches and Turkey Salad, you may be in need of some inspiration. No better grander finale for Thanksgiving turkey to my mind, than the New Orleans/Louisiana standard, Turkey Bone Gumbo. Here’s the version I came up with for my soups and stews cookbook, in the recipe below, and a bowl of it which we enjoyed today for lunch. You need green peppers, onions, celery, parsley, and green onions, plus some spices and a little time to bring it all together. Worth every minute. Happy Thanksgiving, all weekend long!
Turkey bone gumbo is Louisiana’s way of extending the gratitude which flowed forth on Thanksgiving day. Smoked, deep fried, or oven roasted, a turkey carcass or two is the perfect reason or excuse to make a Louisiana-style gumbo, and extend gratefulness through the weekend. Thrifty and a wise use of resources, turkey bone gumbo starts with a marvelous stock produced by simmering meaty turkey bones in water for a few hours, starting on Friday morning of Thanksgiving weekend. If you have a turkey noodle soup tradition at your house, you may not need this recipe. But if you love big bold flavors and letting the good times roll, you may want to cook two turkeys or ask your neighbors for their turkey leftovers, because this gumbo would make a very fine companion to a standard turkey soup. Enjoy this seasonal gumbo with either rice or potato salad, or some leftover dressing and French bread. Note: If you begin with a smoked turkey, consider leaving out the skin, as its smoky goodness tends to take over. Consider using it to make a small pot of smoked-turkey stock, to be frozen and pulled out as the inspiration for a post-holiday season soup or stew.
- Turkey Stock
- 1 turkey carcass, preferably a meaty one, skin and all*
- 1 large onion or 3 small onions, whole and unpeeled
- 3 ribs of celery
- 3 carrots
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or 10 peppercorns
- 12 cups water (3 quarts)
- 8 cups turkey stock
- 3 to 4 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey, light and dark meat
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped green pepper
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 cups bite-sized chunks of Andouille sausage or smoked kielbasa,
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- ¼ cup chopped green onion
- To make the turkey stock, place the turkey carcass, skin and all, in a large stockpot. Chop the onion in half lengthwise, and then chop each piece in half again. Add to the pot, peeling and all. Wash the carrots, chop them into 3-inch chunks, and add to the pot, along with the bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
- Add the water, starting with 12 cups or 3 quarts. Add enough to cover the carcass by an inch or two. Break the carcass apart if necessary to fit it into the pot. Bring the stockpot to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours. No need to stir.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer or a colander into a large bowl or another large pot. Discard all the bones and seasonings, and the thick, cloudy liquid at the very bottom of the pot. Cover and chill. You will have 8 to 10 cups of turkey stock.
- To make the gumbo, begin by making the roux. Use a large heavy pot or Dutch oven in which you will make your gumbo. (You could also make your roux in a large, heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, and transfer the roux to your gumbo pot when it is ready.) Have your seasonings, the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic, should be handy right by the stove, along with the sausage.
- Pour the oil into the pot or skillet and warm it up over medium high heat. Add the flour and begin stirring with a whisk or a large heat-proof spoon. Quickly combine the oil and flour into a smooth, thick sauce, keeping the flour moving as it begins to darken from off-white to ivory and on to beige. Stir constantly, reducing the heat to medium or low if the color is changing fast. Stir patiently and thoroughly for 25 to 35 minutes, as the roux darkens to the color of peanut butter and on toward milk chocolate.
- When the roux reaches a handsome, milk chocolate brown, add the onions and keep stirring, mixing them in and letting them slow the roux down as they begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the celery and green pepper and stir on, cooking them into the roux for about 3 minutes more, until all the seasonings have released their fragrance and are wilting nicely into your roux.
- Add the garlic and chopped sausage and cook, stirring often, until they, too, release their fragrance and start flavoring the roux, about 2 minutes.
- Add 3 cups of the turkey stock and stir gently to help the roux and seasonings dissolve into the stock. When the roux bubbles to a gentle, steady boil, carefully add the remaining stock, along with the salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir well to combine everything and then let the gumbo come to a lively boil. Adjust the heat to maintain an active but gentle simmer and cook, stirring now and then, for 1 hour.
- Add the turkey, stir well, and cook for 10 minutes more. Stir in the green onion and parsley and remove from the heat. Serve hot or warm, with plenty of rice.
If you begin with a smoked turkey, consider leaving out the skin, as its smoky goodness tends to take over. Consider using it to make a small pot of smoked-turkey stock, to be frozen and pulled out as the inspiration for a post-holiday season soup or stew.
If you’d like to have a repertoire of turkey bone gumbo recipes to turn to, you’re not alone. I got interested in the subject a few years back, and now maintain a folder on this particular gumbo family, as well as other gumbos. I posted about turkey bone gumbo here on my blog back in 2014, before my cookbook Southern Soups and Stews was published. In that post I featured a turkey bone gumbo recipe from Garden & Gun magazine, featuring a recipe from Chef Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery, a renowned New Orleans restaurant. Click HERE to go to that post; within it you’ll find a link to the Garden & Gun story and recipe. Try on of these, or turkey soup or sandwiches —- I’d love to hear what you do with bonus turkey after the big meal, if that is part of your Thanksgiving story. Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!