Forget Turkey Sandwiches: Make Leftover Gumbo

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Thanksgiving is over. If you're fortunate, you were surrounded by family and buried in a deluge of smoked, broiled and baked meats with side dishes stacked to the ceiling. You likely ate at least two celebratory meals at two family locations due to dysfunction or marriage. When all is said and done, you're sick of food and looking for an easy way out from under Leftover Mountain. Gumbo is the exit you seek, pilgrim.

Contrary to word on the street, making gumbo is not a lot of work. Sure, it's not as easy as toast or creme brulee, but it's not liking making paella. In fact, making a roux is the most effort-intensive portion -- stirring, watching, stirring, watching, drinking - part of the process. The rest of gumbo cooking involves a low flame, occasional stirring and sitting on the couch watching football.

Five Things to Remember When Making Thanksgiving Leftover Gumbo It's all about the pot. Cooking gumbo is a long process involving slow cooking of hearty ingredients until they are so tender you can suck turkey through a straw. A large quantity of liquid is needed to achieve this state, which means you need a large stock pot. A 12 - 16 quart capacity should do the trick.

The protein leftovers are the key. Collect the carcasses of all bird, swine and bovine. The one exception to this rule is if you're eating some sort of candied ham product. The sweet glaze has no place in your gumbo. Trim the glaze and discard it. Then, rinse & rub ham to eradicate any lingering glaze.

Use leftover gravy. As mentioned, liquid is the key to gumbo, particularly thickening agents. Most gravies are some combination of turkey juice, a thickener (flour or corn starch) and sometimes an oil. Roux, probably the most common gumbo thickener, is typically made with flour and oil browned in an oven or on the stove top. Gravy will not only jump start your roux, but will add richness to the flavor.

You can stop the process at any point if you get sick of seeing food. Roux, stock and turkey parts can all be stuffed in a few freezer bags, shoved in the cooler and used later if you're short on time this holiday season. Fret not about freezer burn; any ill effects will cook out during the hours in the stock pot. Gumbo seems to improve so much when reconstituted that you may want to considered moving it straight from the pot to the freezer.

Finally, rookies may want to read a gumbo recipe or six before starting the process to make sure that they've got the "appropriate" spices and ingredients on hand before starting. The staples are simple: The Trinity, cayenne, salt, flour, protein, a couple of bay leaves, file and whatever else you think will add to the flavor. Some folks will insist on okra. You make the call on that; I do not like the associated slime.

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