I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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My secret for turkey gumbo

This is the secret to turkey gumbo.  First, in a lot of ways, it’s just chicken gumbo, but there’s a strong flavored turkey thing going on that you need to be aware of to achieve balance, and, second, the meat can turn up stringy if you aren’t careful.

The way I deal with the second problem is to strip down the carcass before I make the stock, cube the meat, and set it aside, and then not add it until the gumbo is about done (e.g. when the rice is well on the way to cooking.  Earlier than I’d add the crabmeat in seafood gumbo, but late…).

The way I deal with the second problem is having a balanced base.  And that’s where my secret lies.  The secret is the gravy that I make when I roast a turkey, a gravy that becomes part of the base for gumbo.

Turkey Gravy

I can’t vouch for some of the quantities here; many are approximations.

First, make the stock:

Early in the day, in a saucepan, combine:  mirepoix (equal parts onion, leek, celery, carrots), 2 parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves, a few pepper corns, a few cloves, 3 cups of chicken stock, the turkey neck, the turkey giblets (not the liver), the wing tips.

Cook the stock all afternoon till it’s time to make gravy and then strain it and remove the fat.  And, yes, you really want to start with home-made chicken stock, not water.

Now, the gravy:

When you are roasting a turkey, roast it on a rack. This will not work if you brine turkey, which, for reasons I’ve posted earlier, is not a good idea.

Under the rack, spread out a mirepoix of the following:  about 4 cups of onion, celery, carrot, and leeks, with a slight emphasis on the onions and leeks, about three of four parsley sprigs, 3 or four thyme sprigs, 3 bay leaves.

When you start roasting the turkey, pour about a cup of water in the bottom of the roasting pan.  The idea here is to not let the roasting pan get fully dry.

After you’ve roasted the turkey, set the turkey on a platter in a warm place.  Take the pan and pour off the fat.  You’ll have a lot of carmelized vegetables in the pan.  Put it on med heat, and then put some flour (1/4 c?) in the pan and stir and cook until the flour looses its rawness, about 4-5 minutes at least.  Now pour a half cup of Madeira in the pan.  That’s the real secret ingredient here, that and the double-rich stock you’ve already made.  Cook over med-high heat until the Madeira is almost gone, entirely. Now add the strained stock, and stir and combine thoroughly.  When the stock and carmelized vegetables are thoroughly combined, either run it all through a blender until completely smooth, or through a food mill.  Strain into a saucepan, taste for seasoning, and consider adding a large dollop of heavy cream or a walnut sized piece of butter.  Mix together and taste, and you’ll have as good a gravy as you’ve ever had.

This recipe should leave a couple or three cups of gravy after Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner is done.

After you’ve added the stock to the roux for the gumbo, add the leftover gravy and mix thoroughly.  Taste flavors for balance at that point.

I’m curious what my friend Pableaux thinks of this method…


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