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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Turkey Gumbo with Donald Link’s deer sausage (recipe and comments)

Turkey gumbo is my standard weekend post-Thanksgiving or Christmas production. It’s slightly tricky– turkey stock has a strong flavor that has to be accommodated in a way chicken or even seafood stock does not, and the turkey meat cannot stand any length of cooking in the stock without turning stringy.

A secondary issue with all gumbos in my part of the world is sausage. My substitute for andouille in this part of the world is Conecuh sausage, but if I have truly great gumbo in New Orleans, I invariably think that the difference between mine and what I’m eating down there is the sausage. And this weekend, I got to test this thought.

My son, who works in Herbsaint, brought an incredible care package in the form of an ice chest of stuff he’d bought from the pantry at Herbsaint and Cochon Butcher. A couple were things he’d made– an incredible buttery hickory smoked duck pastrami breast, the best apple butter I ever ate, and (native) persimmon jam. All great. One prize, though, I wanted to check out for gumbo: deer sausage made like andouille.

So that was what went in the turkey gumbo today. And without doubt, it was the best batch of turkey gumbo I ever made– one of the best batches of any kind of gumbo I’ve made.

This sausage had a great and smoky flavor. It was wonderful, and just made the gumbo. My son says it’s one of the three things Donald Link makes he’s most proud of; I really wonder what the other three are– his gumbo has to be one, I’d think.

This is a standard holiday dish at my house.

Turkey Gumbo

turkey stock

a turkey carcass from a roast turkey
2 onions rough chopped
2 stalks celery rough chopped
1 carrot pealed and rough chopped
2 dried red peppers
6 or so pepper corns
3-4 cloves
1/3 tsp or 2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves

Trim the carcass of the turkey, pull;ing off all “bite sized” pieces of meat and reserving for the gumbo. You’re going to need at least a couple of cups of bite sized pieces of meat for the gumbo. Trim very carefully– pull off the “oysters” from the backbone, the white meat under the drum stick, etc. Reserve the meat and combine the bones and all the other ingredients and water to cover. Bring to a simmer and simmer for several hours.

Gumbo (8-10 servings for a main dish?)

1 1/3 cup canola oil plus a smidgen more
1 1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
12 cups of stock, above
1 tbs finely chopped garlic
a bay leaf
1/4 tsp or 2 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp red pepper
1 tsp salt
12 oz andouille or other smoked sausage, cut first in half, then thirds lengthwise, then pieces of about 1/4 inch
2 cups or so reserved bite sized pieces of turkey

Note: The spicy-heat of the sausage can effect how much black pepper / cayenne you need here. What I did with the above measurements produced an excellent but not terribly caliente gumbo. I did this gumbo from a carcass from a 12 lb turkey that did a dinner for only 3 folks but produced an epic number of sandwiches. Normally, I cook a larger turkey and make more gumbo than this. If you fry the turkey or (more dubiously) brine it, I have no idea how this will turn out. With the later, be very wary about salt. And next time, don’t wet brine that turkey

Start this when the stock has cooked at least 90 minutes.

1.  Heat 1 1/3 c canola oil in a cast iron skillet till just short of smoking hot. Add the flour and blend thoroughly.

2.  Regularly stir the flour/oil (roux) mixture to prevent any from scorching on the bottom. You want the roux to get just short of coffee dark, which is going to take the better part of an hour. Take your time and don’t rush it. If you don’t push the roux till its that dark, you will be assured a second rate gumbo; that, the quality of stock, and the quality of sausage are outcome determinant.

3.  When the roux is at least caramel colored, put a bit of oil in another hot skillet, then add the onions, and cook until well wilted.  Add the celery and cook until soft.

4.  When the stock has cooked 90 minutes at least, strain and remove all fat.  Measure out to make sure it’s at least 12 cups.  It should be enough, but in a pinch add additional homemade chicken stock or water to make it up.  Return to the stockpot and bring almost to a simmer.

5.  When the roux is chocolate colored or slightly darker, whisk it into the stock and blend thoroughly.

6.  Once the stock and roux are thoroughly blended, add the onion/celery, andouille, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, black pepper, red pepper, salt and stir to blend.  Cook for 50 minutes or so.   When you’re about 16 minutes out, cook enough rice to make about 1/2 cup per serving you’re eating this meal. When about done, taste for salt andad more as needed.  Add the turkey pieces 3-4 minutes before you are ready to eat the gumbo.

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