Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey 'n Sausage Gumbo

Looks like the holidays are upon us, and what better way to use up the turkey leftovers than a nice, hot, comforting bowl of good old gumbo, on a chilly Autumn or Winter night?

Gumbo, as we have discussed before, is the Swahili word for "okra," and I can't imagine gumbo without that vegetable. But I can't imagine it, either, without one of my own kitchen standbys, the humble onion.

Onions have been working busily and well in people's kitchens since 'way before the Egyptians started getting fancy with their tombs or the Romans came strutting across Europe bringing law and recipes.

Onions and lilies are members of the same family, and they're grown pretty much the same way. The only difference is that we usually put lily bulbs into the (slightly alkaline, well-fertilized, moist-but-not-wet, well-drained) ground to get a lily later in the season. With onions, either we put in "onion sets," which are little baby onions, into the ground; or we put in onion seeds, which are produced on beautiful 4" compound blossoms (that means the big blossom is made up of lots and lots of tiny little blossoms who have clubbed together to look like a big bloom).

When the blossom is ripe, the onion will produce little black seeds, two or three for each small flower. These seeds, planted and nurtured, will produce onion sets in the first year, and then--replanted--they will grow to maturity the second year.

Of course, we always buy our onions at the supermarket, but it doesn't hurt to know how to do it, just in case something goes wrong someday. Perhaps the Europeans didn't know there would be two world wars within two generations, and I'll bet those who knew how to grow and eat from the land were the Europeans who were able to keep their families fed.

Here's a wonderful way to use onions. I do it all the time, and no one has complained yet.

Turnkey and Sausage Gumbo

I picked-over turkey carcass PLUS
1 6" X 3"-thick chunk of white or dark meat
1 1/2 # Italian hot sausage links
1 very latge onion
6 fat cloves garlic
6 outer ribs of celery, with leaves
1 1/2 tsps dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 (1#) bag frozen cut okra
1/2 c virgin olive oil* OR
a mixture of olive oil and bacon fat, rendered
1/2 all-purpose flour*
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
salt to taste
1 cup white wine
1-2 gallons water


Boil the carcass in a large stockpot over low heat until all the collagen had leached out of the bones, about 18 hours or all-afternoon-turn-it-off-to-sleep-all- the-following-day. Keep the cover on the pot while cooking and refrigerate it overnight in the pot. Let it cool, then pick every bit of the meat off the turkey bones. Reserve meat in one bowl and the broth in the stockpot. Discard the bones into your compost bin; your plants could probably use the phosphorus and calcium. Dice the chunk of meat. Slice the hot sausage in to 1/2" coins. Reserve together in a large bowl. Peel your onion and dice into 1/4" dice. Smash, peel and finely chop the garlic. Wash the celery ribs and slice into 1/4" slices. Reserve with the onions and garlic in a second, smaller bowl. Measure the pappers, thyme and oregano into a small bowl and reserve.


Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy Dutch Oven, and add the flour when the oil gets hot. Keep it moving with a wooden spoon, not stopping for a minute until it changes and becomes a lovely medium-dark brown color and smells lovely. This is a dark roux, and making it properly could take 10 or 15 minutes or more. Trust me, it's worth it.

When it's the right color, add the onion/garlic/celery mixture and sweat your veggies until they surrender. Now add the black pepper/cayenne pepper/thyme/oregano mixture and stir until it blooms with fragrance. Now add your meats and stir them around until the sausage greys out somewhat. Add about a gallon of the water and all the wine, turn down the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer for about 45 minutes, while the flavors blend, the sausage cooks through, and the broth thickens.

During the last ten minutes of cooking, add the frozen okra and let it cook to tender-crisp perfection. If you wanted to sneak a pound of shrimp just then, or an equal amount of fresh oysters, or both, I won't complain. Neither will you. Just be sure the shrimp lose their transparency but don't get to the "Goodyear" stage, and only add oysters for the last couple of minutes, until their edges curl. Of course you will include the oyster liquor (juices) as well.

Serve the gumbo hot in soup dishes, over a scoop of fluffy, fragrant white rice, with steaming garlic/Parmesan bread and a nice big salad to "go with."

Be prepared to serve "seconds" to all comers. This is just as good the next day, but the broth will have thickened and gotten a little gluey due to the okra. Still tastes great. Try it.

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