Thanksgiving leftovers never tasted so good.
We all know the easy, but by no means bad, route to take for Thanksgiving leftovers: scoop a random assortment of leftovers onto a plate. Reheat. But for anyone who just ready to stir new life into their Thanksgiving leftovers, this spicy New Orleans-style turkey gumbo recipe is the absolute right move.
This gumbo recipe from Unpeeled’s new contributor Emmah Schramke tastes smoky, spicy, and rich in flavor and texture. The recipe also makes a nice big quantity, ready to feed your whole crowd right away, or freeze for cold winter nights to come.
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The Big Easy: Simplifying Roux
The base of any legit gumbo is the roux, which should cook until it is a deep brown color. Roux is a 1:1 combination of flour and fat — in this case, a neutral vegetable oil. The two are whisked and cooked together in a pot until toasted as desired. Liquid then gets added slowly to form a thickened sauce or soup.
Roux serves a couple important functions. First, as stated above, the flour in the roux helps thicken the overall gumbo. Because the flour has been cooked, it will not taste dry or starchy.
Second, roux adds flavor. Gumbo roux is cooked to a smooth, deep chestnut brown. In addition to the smoky aroma, the roux also deepens the flavor and color of the gumbo.
Advice on roux:
- Stir, stir, stir. Things can go from brown to burnt pretty quickly, so babysit that roux. You are going for a nice chestnut color. Just keep stirring.
- Both the color and textures evolve. This is normal. You can see below, the roux will go from thin to thick to thin again. The far right is your ideal color.
- Oil, not butter. Because gumbo roux needs to get so dark, the recipe needs oil and not butter. The dairy solids in butter will burn. Other roux, like for a béchamel or white sauce, call for butter because they are only very lightly toasted in color.
Layering Your Gumbo Ingredients Over Time
Gumbo is a labor of love, involving roux, layers of vegetables and protein, a distinctive spice blend, and filé, a powdered sassafras that adds thickening and distinctive, root beer flavor. Luckily, once the roux is done, the gumbo is fairly hands-off. Here is a great article all about gumbo, for any fellow food nerds.
After the roux, you will add the onion, celery, and bell pepper (known as gumbo’s “holy trinity), garlic, and your gumbo spice blend. Simmer that in the stock for about 30 minutes, then add the tomatoes, liquid smoke and okra. Simmer some more. Then add your final seasonings, taste, and serve. Ideally, the next day when it is even better!
Why Is Okra Slimy?
This recipe, like all authentic gumbos, calls for okra. Okra does not appeal to everyone. It releases a mucilage made of sugar residues and glycoproteins similar to aloe vera that thickens the gumbo, but also makes a “slimy” texture when heated slowly. You can omit the okra if you like.
Recipe Notes: Thanksgiving Leftovers Turkey Gumbo
From contributor Emmah Schramke:
There are endless things you can do with Thanksgiving leftovers, but the key to success is changing the flavor profile so your family does not feel like they are eating the same meal over and over again. This turkey gumbo is the perfect post-Thanksgiving meal and is very forgiving. Depending on what your post-Thanksgiving leftover situation looks like, you can adjust the recipe accordingly. For example:
- Lots of leftover gravy? Half the flour and oil for the roux and add a cup of gravy just before stirring in the onions.
- Leftover brussels sprouts could be used in lieu of the okra. Just double the amount of file added to ensure the gumbo thickens.
- No leftover mashed potatoes? Assuming marshmallows or brown sugar were not added, you could use leftover sweet potatoes or winter squash that was served the day before.
- Extra cranberry sauce? Add a dollop on top of mashed potatoes before serving.
Did you like this Thanksgiving leftovers recipe for turkey gumbo? Tell us!
New Orleans-Style Turkey Gumbo
For the Roux
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large onion, chopped
For the Gumbo Spice Blend
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne (or to taste; 2 teaspoons is fairly spicy)
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 2 teaspoons celery seed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 12 turns fresh-cracked black pepper
For the Gumbo and to Finish
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 12 ounces okra, sliced thin (optional)
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 5 cloves)
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh sage, and more to garnish
- 5 cups unsalted turkey or chicken stock
- 1 cup beer (optional)
- 3 cups leftover turkey, cut or pulled into chunks
- 12 ounces fresh andouille sausage, sliced 1/2" thick
- 2 drops liquid smoke (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons filé powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the Spice Blend
- Stir all the spices together in a small bowl. Set aside.
For the Roux
- In a Dutch oven or large cast iron pot, heat oil over medium heat.
- Whisk the flour into the oil until incorporated and smooth. The roux will resemble a thin cake batter. Stir continuously to prevent from burning, 20 to 25 minutes, until roux takes on a deep brown color. You may need to lower the heat to medium low toward the end.
- Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon until the roux is a glossy dark brown.
For the Gumbo and to Finish
- Add celery, bell pepper, garlic, and gumbo spice blend. Stir for a minute before adding stock, beer, rosemary, and sage sprigs. Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat back to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the andouille, turkey, tomatoes, okra, and liquid smoke. Simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Remove the rosemary and sage sprigs. Add Worcestershire, filé, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve gumbo with rice or leftover mashed potatoes and garnish with chopped sage. This is even better the next day.