When you have Louisiana roots, you know you’re going to be eating cajun and creole cuisine, even if your heritage isn’t the least bit cajun or creole. As a young child, I had no idea about the connection of food to ancestral and geographical roots. I thought everyone’s family get-togethers featured gumbo, like turkey happened at Thanksgiving. Over time, I learned that cajun cuisine—primarily gumbo—was a Louisiana roots thing, not a universal family thing. Does your family have a dish you have just about every time you get together? What’s the origin?
When I decided to share my Black Friday Gumbo recipe, I realized it was created just six years ago. I was a little amazed that it took me so long to develop it, given those Louisiana roots and fond memories of family gatherings. My brother and I used to go crabbing with my grandfather and bring back the special ingredient for the seafood gumbo my grandmother made: blue crabs. I can remember my grandmother heating a skillet with oil and adding flour. Which brings me back to why it took me so long to make this dish: the roux.
I knew the roux took some time to prepare, but I was really more concerned about burning it … because what little I did know about roux was that it was tantamount to a disaster to burn it. So, imagine my delight those six years ago when I found some jarred cajun roux!
Using Thanksgiving leftovers and few added ingredients, I made a turkey variant of a chicken and sausage gumbo … because I’d rather cook than shop on Black Friday. And that’s how Black Friday Gumbo was born. This past year I procrastinated so long I had to call it Giving Tuesday Gumbo. I also did something I’ve never done before … I made my roux from scratch.
If you’ve ever heard someone rue the day they burned their roux … the exasperation in their voice is horrifying. And you really can’t appreciate why until you’ve made (and hopefully not burned) a gumbo roux. The only reason I can’t say that making roux takes forever is that it eventually did finish. But it felt like a lifetime. However, it was quite satisfying to have successfully made my first roux.
I used Justin Wilson’s basic roux recipe: heat oil in the bottom of a large pot, stir in 1 1/2 cups of flour and keep stirring under low heat until you feel like your hand is going to fall off. Wilson says the idea is to cook the flour taste out of the roux, which is pretty amazing considering the main ingredient is flour. It makes sense it would take such a long time to pull off that kind of feat! At any rate, you want to turn that roux to a very dark brown without burning the roux. If you don’t have the time—or patience—look for a jar of roux.
For the gumbo, I used a variant of a recipe from Justin Wilson’s Looking Back cookbook: Chicken-Andouille Gumbo a la Rosina. I substituted chicken for turkey, reduced the onion, and increased the bell pepper. I also eliminated some of the ingredients in the recipe.
For Thanksgiving, I often use Emiril Lagasse’s Andouille Cornbread Stuffing as a starting point for dressing. You can find the recipe at emerils.com. The stuffing is best if you make his jalapeño corn muffins to use in it. I like to serve these muffins with my Creamy Curried Pumpkin Soup. I serve the gumbo over my leftover dressing, and it’s a delicious pairing. If you’re low on dressing, you can go with traditional rice with a little gumbo file or—as some of my Louisiana friends taught me—yellow potato salad. If you’ve never tried it, you should. To channel Justin, “You’re gonna love it. I ga-ron-tee.”
If you like gumbo, and you’re not so much into days of turkey sandwiches, you’re going to love this take on Thanksgiving leftovers.
“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.”—Kevin James
About 1/2 C oil (enough to cover bottom of large pot)
1 1/2 C flour
1 C turkey meat, pulled or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb Andouille sausage, in 1/4 in slices
3 medium onions
1 green bell pepper
1 TBSP chopped celery
3 C water
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp cilantro
1 tsp onion powder
Prep time: about 1 hour for roux, about 3 hours for gumbo
Yields: about 6 cups
Cut or pull turkey into bite sized pieces and cut sausage into 1/4 slices.
Chop onion, bell pepper and celery and place in bowl.
Cook roux or add pre-prepared roux to large pot.
To cook roux on stovetop, heat oil in a large pan, then add flour and cook on low setting, stirring almost constantly until mixture turns a very dark brown.
TIP: You can cook the roux in an iron skillet and transfer it to a stock pot if you do not have a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven.
Stir in onion, bell pepper and celery. Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, until onion turns translucent.
Stir in meat. Cover and heat on low, stirring occasionally, for about a 1/2 hour.
Add water, garlic, cilantro and onion powder and bring to boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Serve warm over leftover stuffing or dressing, over rice or over yellow potato salad. Corn muffins, dinner rolls or garlic bread are great for dipping in and mopping up the gumbo.