Turkey and Andouille Gumbo

Every year I get a turkey for Thanksgiving. This is the first year I actually used it for Thanksgiving, but that’s for a different article. What I always use the turkey for is awesome Louisiana food–namely, gumbo and jambalaya. Right now I’ve got a batch on the stove, and I think I’ve made it enough times to write a good article about it.

Although it’s kind of intimidating, it’s not too hard. For the longest time, making the roux was the scariest part. It’s that essential first step that either makes or breaks your gumbo. I come from two different methodologies when it comes to making a roux, which didn’t help things either. Basically, there are two ways to do it: low and long or hot and fast. But whichever way you choose, the most important thing is that you don’t burn it. I used to be a fan of long and low, but as I got more used to making a roux, my impatience came to take over.

I guess gumbo is one of those foods that I love–the kind you can play with and make your own. I have a recipe that I forced out of my mom written down, but I’ve made so many adjustments and make so many non-measurements that having a recipe has become a little silly. But it is a good starting point. So for those of you who would like a starting point, here you go:

First, here’s what you need:
1/2 cup fats (I use a mix of butter and olive oil–it all depends on your own flavor preference)
1/2 cup flour
2 stalks celery
2 poblano peppers (this is my first year using these, normally I use green bell peppers)
1 yellow onion
11 cloves garlic (Cajuns love them some garlic)
8 oz okra (this is the first time I’ve used this too, I just used half a bag of frozen)
7 cups home-made turkey stock (another super-easy thing to make with leftover turkey bits, article coming soon)
~1 1/2 cup turkey
4 links andouille sausage

It’s true there’s a lot of waiting for this, but in the beginning it’s a flurry of activity, so it’s best to be well prepared before starting anything.

So, first things first, begin by chopping up the sausage and veggies. Put the veggies in a bowl and set aside. You will need them suddenly, so keep them handy.

Then–and this is important, but I always forget to do it–brown the sausage in the same pot you’re going to cook everything else in. It saves you a pan and also helps the delicious sausage flavor permeate everything.

Once they’re done, remove from pot and set aside.

Now it’s time for the roux.

That is your desired end result, but it’s going to start off more like this:

Combine the flour and oil/butter and combine. A french whisk is my favorite tool for this, but a normal whisk or a wooden spoon will get the job done too.

If you want low and long, keep it around 3 and stir forever. This method could take most of an hour but it’s safer in that you’re less likely to burn it (yet more likely to succumb to a murderous rage induced by impatience and slight arm fatigue).

The method I tried out today and which I vastly prefer is hot and fast. I started around 5 and progressively got more impatient and ended around 8 1/2. You definitely have to pay attention to your stirring and make sure nothing sticks to the bottom and burns. But it’s worth it.

Once your roux is a delicious chocolatey brown, take it off the heat and–quick!–add the veggies. They help cool off the roux, which is very important at this stage.

Since gumbo itself takes so long to cook, I didn’t see the need to cook the veggies for too long, though you can if you want on a low heat. Now it’s time to add the stock (should be warm) and meat.

And I don’t have a finished picture yet because it’s still going! But once the rice is done I’ll enjoy a bowl and let you know how it came out.

Gravy the Not-So-Unhealthy Way

So like I said in my last post, you’ll want to save your drippings for a gravy.

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The not so unhealthy part comes from putting it in the freezer. A lot of what’s in the pan will be fat, but if you freeze it, the fat will float and solidify so that you can pick it up and throw it away. That way you’re taking out a lot of fat, but not sacrificing flavor. This is how my mom does it, and she hates eating fatty foods.

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It took my big, hot bowl about an hour to be where the fat is solidified enough to pick up. I checked on it every 15 minutes or so, which definitely added some time to the clock, but it’s worth it to make sure it doesn’t all freeze.

Once it’s done, put it in a skillet and heat it up. You want to reduce it on a med-high heat to thicken it. One thing I did to help the process was throw in some flour.

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A whisk works really well here because you don’t want lumps of flour in the end result. I added it one tablespoon at a time and used a total of four, but three would have probably been better.

When it’s not quite as thick as you want it to be, it’s done. (It thickens as it cools.)

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You can strain it if you want to make sure there aren’t any lumps, but you should be fine.

This works for all kinds of meats. If you’re ever making a roast, you can use the drippings to make a tasty gravy to accompany it.

Baking a Turkey

I only do this once a year, but it’s worth it. The very first time it was super daunting, but it ended up fine. Just make sure you let it thaw all the way before you try working with it.

As far as cooking it goes, I don’t have any great tips for you. I just clean it up and cook it according to the timetable on the wrapper.

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Raw turkeys are gross, but don’t let that stop you. Most of the time, the gizzards and neck are still inside the turkey, in a little pouch. You have to take that out, but it’s no big deal. You just first have to undo the leg clamps.

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Washing it is also a good idea. A lot of times they store it in some sort of mixture that you want to rinse off before cooking.

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That red dot is a sort of thermometer. I don’t trust it completely, but basically it extends when the bird’s done. Real thermometers would be better though.

My turkey was 22 pounds, so that merited 4 hours and 30 minutes of cooking. One thing you need when baking a turkey is a really deep pan, because a lot of fat and juice will drip out and if you let that pool at the bottom of your oven, it’ll catch fire next time you use your oven. (I learned this the hard way–don’t worry though, it’s ok now.)

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You shouldn’t try to lift this whole thing out at once; it’s way to heavy. Use either a ladle or a baster to get the juices out before you move the pan. But don’t throw them away; keep them for gravy (that’ll be another post soon).

I never just eat my turkeys, I always boil them into a broth. This makes the meat tender and also gives me a broth to use for other dishes. I generally make a couple batches of jambalaya and gumbo, as well as turkey noodle soup (I always tend to get sick around Thanksgiving). So I always take it apart as soon as it’s cool enough to touch and boil the meat. I throw away the skin though.

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Boil it with some onion, garlic, salt and pepper, and you’ll get a good base broth that will work for any sort of food. You don’t want carrots or celery at this stage, because they’ll just disintegrate and the might mess with the flavors of other things you want to make.