Recipe: Cajun stew adds a kick to leftovers

NewsdayNovember 27, 2013 

A bowl of turkey gumbo with cornbread on the side is ready to eat.


Thanksgiving meals are remarkably consistent across ethnic borders. Whether your family arrived at Plymouth Rock or the local airport, tomorrow many of us will be consuming some variation on roast turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. But it’s in the creative exploitation of leftovers that home cooks let their national flags wave.

This recipe for a deep dark cajun stew uses leftover turkey.


Yield: about 2 quarts of gumbo.

1 1/2 ribs celery

1/2 medium onion

1/2 small red pepper

1/2 cup peanut oil

1 cup flour

1 (35-ounce) can whole tomatoes (4 cups)

1 quart turkey stock or low-salt chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic or garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoon file powder (available at specialty markets)

1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce

1 teaspoon table salt

1 quart leftover turkey, skinned

Chop celery, onion, red pepper. This is the Cajun “trinity.” Set aside.

In a cast-iron (or other heavy) skillet, heat oil over medium. When it’s hot enough that a pinch of flour sizzles, add all the flour and stir with a wooden spoon, continuously, until mixture is the color of milk chocolate, a good 5 minutes. (This is the roux.) If mixture is too crumbly, add a little oil. Add “trinity” and continue to cook until vegetables are soft, 5 to 10 minutes more. Set aside.

Into a stock pot, pour tomatoes and crush them with your hands. Add turkey stock, thyme, basil, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, file, hot sauce and salt and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add trinity-roux mixture and stir well to combine. Add turkey and simmer slowly over low heat for about 30 minutes.


Makes 6 to 8 servings.

This basic cornbread recipe uses leftover cranberry sauce. Either homemade or canned whole-berry will work.

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup whole milk

Nonstick spray or shortening

1 1/2 cups whole-berry cranberry sauce or 1 (12-ounce) can

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Once oven is hot, place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet inside to heat.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well with a fork or whisk.

Combine butter, honey and sugar in a microwavable bowl and heat until just melted, a few minutes on medium heat (or use a double boiler.) Let mixture cool a little.

Whisk together eggs and milk, then add them to honey-butter mixture. Whisk all the while so eggs do not curdle.

Take cast-iron skillet out of the oven (using oven mitts).

Spray with nonstick spray or wipe with shortening. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix swiftly with a spatula.

Pour this into the hot pan. Pour cranberry sauce over batter and then swirl in with a knife as if you’re making a marble cake.

Place pan back in oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until top is golden and a cake tester comes out nearly dry, about 10 to 20 minutes.

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