I make turkey gumbo every time there is a turkey carcass sent my way. That means I make a stock from the bones and whatever remnants of meat remain. I always have too much leftover stock, so I need other uses for that liquid gold. Of course, turkey jambalaya could, should and will soak up that juice. Consider it a strong candidate for your leftover Thanksgiving plan.
The first time I made jambalaya was when I was a junior in high school. My friend William Bradford and I nabbed a recipe from somewhere and followed it to the letter … up to a point. When the recipe called for a teaspoon of cayenne, we decided that would be nowhere near enough. You know those little spice containers that are about 2 inches tall and 1-1/2 inches in diameter? We used one of those. The whole thing.
I’ve learned a lot over the years. Turns out two fingers of whiskey is not enough, but two fingers of cayenne is far too much. There we sat in his living room, watching TV and sweating in the air conditioning as we powered through a couple of bowls of our monstrous creation. We knew it was too hot, but neither of us would admit it was ruined. No one else would touch it. Our noses were running and we slugged water and Gatorade trying to put out the fire, always coming back for another spoonful.
I remember my next 12 hours being pretty rough. We didn’t look each other in the eye for a couple of weeks.
Jambalaya doesn’t need to be hot. If you must make it super spicy, you’re probably overcompensating for something. Like gumbo (or anything, really) you can customize your spice level at the table. That’s what God made hot sauce for.
Jambalaya doesn’t have a lot of rules, so I am bad about going all in with whatever is on hand, but today we are overdoing it on purpose. With tasso and sausage, we may overpower the turkey a little, but that’s OK. By the time you get to this recipe, you will be so sick of turkey sandwiches and tetrazzini that you’ll welcome the mask of the beautiful pork.
Turkey and pork aren’t enemies by any stretch. The layers of flavor of a good jambalaya hit the eyes, nose and mouth, but the most important part is the finish. You’ll get a good one with this.
In a large stockpot, place the turkey carcass(es) and any bones, necks, wings, etc., leftover from your feast. Two celery stalks and two carrots, chopped, and one peeled onion, as well as two or three garlic cloves and a couple of sprigs of thyme, will round this out. Cover with cold water to about 2 inches over and bring to a boil. Crank down the heat and simmer for a couple of hours, minimum. Strain.
If you are using fried turkey carcasses, there is no issue. The stock may be slightly gravy-like, but not bad. I actually prefer it. Notice there is no salt added. We want to control the sodium as much as we can, and chances are your bird was salted when it was cooked. Don’t panic.
1/3 cup olive oil or bacon grease
1 pound andouille, sliced
1/2 pound tasso, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups leftover turkey, chopped or shredded
3 cups uncooked white rice
1 can crushed Rotel tomatoes
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
5 cups turkey stock
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
Green onions to taste (3 or 4)
It’s great if you have a parabolic jambalaya pot, but any heavy pot should do. Get it hot over medium heat and add oil. Brown the sausage and the tasso. Add the onions and scrape the brown, sticky bits from the pot with a wooden spoon. Let the onions cook for about 10 minutes, then add the bell pepper and celery. Cook for 2 minutes and add the garlic for about 5 minutes more. Add the turkey and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the rice and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Next, add the tomatoes, undrained, the thyme, bay leaves and cayenne. Don’t overdo it. Stir for 1 minute more. Add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and green onions separately, then replace the lid and remove from heat. Wait about 10 minutes. Again, we’ve added no salt. The sausage and tasso should have enough; the stock may as well. You can adjust later with salt or creole seasoning. In some cases, I would use bacon grease instead of olive oil. I was just trying to tone it down a little. The bacon grease also would add another layer of salt.
Serves one single oversized jambalaya fan for two days. This could be a main course or an amazing side. I’d pair it with a good, velvety Zinfandel or even a Chianti Ruffino Classico. But don’t count out the whites just because there are tomatoes in this. Get some acid from a mid-range Sauvignon Blanc.
As far as hot sauces go, Tabasco still is king, but be sure to have Louisiana and Crystal on hand for the purists. Enjoy!
Celebrities in our midst
The Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association is recognizing some of our local talent with their Stars of the Industry Awards.
Miranda Greene took home the honor of Back of the House Restaurant Employee of the Year. Greene cooks for Manci’s six days a week and is a bright light in the Daphne restaurant.
Squid Ink’s Allen Honeycutt won the ARHA’s Spirit Award, a deserved honor, indeed. The visually impaired Honeycutt spreads his joy while working hard at the corner of Dauphin and Royal.
Congratulations to both winners and to the restaurants lucky enough to have them.
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