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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving carcass

Dear Lord, Thank you for this turkey and the carcass it is about to be. Amen.

(No blasphemy intended, seriously.)

The meat you will consume tomorrow is muscle tissue surrounding a skeletal system of a once living critter. I'm no vegan-greenpeace-animal rights activist sort of gal, but I think it is right, especially at Thanksgiving, to take a moment to reflect on the fact that we humans are part of the food-chain network. To be thankful for it. And to recognize our place in it. Just a thought.

On Friday, Sinky Day (the day people eat lunch over the sink), you will probably have turkey sandwiches, no doubt on homemade bread, with homemade mayonnaise... . Pardon me while I prepare for a food comma.

On Saturday, you may have a turkey casserole. Depending on the number of folks picking on this carcass, you may have enough meat to freeze. But at some point... .

When you are finished picking every last bit of muscle tissue worth picking off that carcass... you've made it to the really good part, the skeleton-- the bones. This means the best turkey gumbo you've ever had in your life is just as hop & a skip away. (Lord, thank you for Thanksgiving.)

Basic chicken stock recipe, adjust at will for the turkey carcass. The key is to fully immerse the carcass in water, to have the same proportions of seasonings (celery, carrots, etc.), and to boil it slowly to get the marrow from the bones. (So if it takes more than 5 qts water to immerse the carcass, adjust the quantity of celery, etc., accordingly.) From John's Big Food Manual and Survivalist Flourishing Guide:


CHICKEN STOCK

Makes 4 quarts, but freezes well

5-6 lb hen
1 medium onion, chopped coarse
3 ribs celery, chopped coarse
2 carrots, scraped and chopped coarse
2 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
5 quarts water

Put all ingredients into a large (2 gallon) stock pot. Simmer slowly until hen is tender, about 2 ½ hours. Let stock cool with hen in it. Remove hen and strain.


LEFTOVER TURKEY GUMBO
2 quarts turkey stock, made from leftover turkey carcass
½ C flour
½ C oil (can use bacon fat for real Cajun flavor and calories)
Leftover turkey meat, chopped into bite-sized pieces
½ lb andouille sausage (preferably homemade—see recipes in Meats section)
1 lb shrimp, optional
1 lb ckra, sliced (can use frozen—1 ½ boxes)
1 big onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped (mostly white parts)
1 bell pepper, chopped
2-3 ribs celery, chopped
3 (or more) cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
½ bunch parsley, chopped
Creole seasoning, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Steaming long-grain rice
File powder

Remove meat from the turkey carcass. Cut up and set aside. Boil the carcass in water to make the turkey stock. Remove carcass from stock and skim stock. Measure out two quarts stock in a large stockpot and have stock simmering slowly, covered. Chop onions, green onions, bell pepper, and celery and have ready in a big bowl while you make your roux.

Make a roux: blend flour and fat, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Be careful not to burn the roux—if black flecks appear, it has been burned and must be thrown away. Keep stirring until the roux gets darker and darker. You can stop at chocolate brown if you wish, but I try for the color of coffee. (The darker you get the roux, the darker will be the shade of your gumbo.) As soon as you reach the desired color, turn off the fire and add the chopped veggies immediately. (This stops the roux from cooking further.)

Stir the veggies into the roux thoroughly and keep stirring until the mixture begins to cool a bit. Add the roux to the turkey stock. Chunk the andouille and fry off. Drain fat and add andouille to stock. Add bay leaf and Creole seasoning and stir.

Bring stock to a boil then immediately reduce to simmer. Let stock simmer about 30 minutes uncovered. Taste occasionally and adjust seasonings. Add okra and cook another 30 minutes uncovered (long enough to make sure that the “sliminess” is gone from the gumbo). Add parsley and reserved turkey meat. Simmer for 15 minutes uncovered. Add shrimp if used. Cook for 5-6 minutes, just until shrimp turn pink. Taste. Add salt, pepper, and Tabasco. (This gumbo should not be too spicy hot.)

Let gumbo sit, covered, until ready to serve. If any fat accumulates on gumbo surface, skim it off. To serve, press ½ cup rice into measuring cup and place in a mound in center of gumbo bowl. Ladle gumbo around the rice mound. Sprinkle with file powder (1/4 – ½ tsp.)

Eat hearty—there’s plenty!


Dear Lord, Thank you for bringing John, who knows how to make the best turkey gumbo ever, into my life. Amen.

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