I'm not a turkey fan. I was just having a conversation yesterday with The Editor about it. See, we're going to his mom's for Thanksgiving, and she's concerned that I'll be disappointed that we're not having the traditional turkey-centered spread.
Now, before you get to thinkin' that it's a Buddhist or vegetarian thing, it's not. I am a completely conflicted meat-eater, which is to say that I'll eat and even enjoy meat immensely, but the whole time I'm doing it there's part of my brain that's knock-knocking on my heart and waggin' a finger.
No, I just really, seriously have never understood what people see in turkey as a dish. Even as a kid -- I heard the clamoring, both in my family and among friends and, of course, on TV, radio, billboards, magazines... And I always thought maybe one day, I'd finally get the magic. Turkey Magic. My eyes and heart would open wide, the clouds would part, my mind would expand blissfully up and out, and the rest of my miserable un-turkey-fied life would be nothing more than history blowing in the wind.
Yeah. Didn't happen.
I'm serious -- give me a super juicy burger even over turkey any day. And you can ask my kid, I'm not that big a burger fan.
So -- here's what's better: gumbo.
That's right. Gumbo for Thanksgiving. There is NOTHING on this revolving rock better than seafood. Nothing.
And you know what's even better? Easy Trailer Park versions of gumbo. Sure, you can get all cerebral with your roux experiments, but me, I'd just rather spend less time cooking it and more time eating it. I'm not in this for the applause.
I present to you, from the kitchen of one of the most expedient cooks in The Republic -- my Momma -- Polly's Rouxless Gulf Coast Gumbo. She dictated it to my dad, Dave, just for this very blog.
And if you're still struck by traditional stuffing-love (or it just doesn't feel like a holiday to you until your feet are swollen from standing in the kitchen), but you want something more in line with my seafood idea, Sister Martha has graciously released to public (RIGHT HERE!!) her very own Corn Bread & Rice (& Oyster) Stuffing recipe. It. Is. The. Best.
By the way, I think it's funny that neither my mom nor Sister Martha specified how to cook the finished product (so I added those bits). I think that's a family-cook thing; I bet you can relate. It's all in the ingredients. Then you cook it. You just cook it.
(And sorry - no pictures yet. What -- it's gotta look good? It's gumbo and oysters. Need I say more?)
Polly's Rouxless Gulf Coast Gumbo
[Note: You can make a boat-load of this stuff to feed your minions in about half an hour prep time. Start with a big pot -- cook it all in there. If you've never cooked seafood -- shrimp are 'done' when they're no longer transparent-ish.]
1 large yellow onion, diced.
4 stems celery, diced.
1/2 lb bacon, diced.
Saute above until bacon is cooked.
Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes, stir.
Add 2 cans mushroom soup, stir.
Defrost one box of frozen sliced okra, rinse well, stir in.
Shell and clean shrimp, the more the merrier (1 to 5 lbs) & add to pot.
Season with salt, cayenne pepper, and gumbo filet until it tastes good.
[This is me: Simmer on low at least til the shrimp are done, longer if you have time so the flavors can get all in there. I once left a giant pot of this on low for hours during a party. It just got better and better.]
Lynn's (That's Sister Martha's Real Name) Corn Bread & Rice Stuffing (& Oyster) Stuffing
[Note: If you're into skipping turkey like me, you can buy pre-plucked-and-packaged giblets at the store. Beyond that skip-it trick, this recipe is so involved it just might render that good ol'time, swollen feet feelin' of cooking all day for a crowd. But it's worth it.]
Makes about 12 cups of stuffing
Corn Bread for Stuffing
1 ½ cups yellow corn meal
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups skim milk
¼ cup butter/margarine, melted
4 cups water
¾ cup diced celery (about 1 ½ ribs)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups thinly sliced celery (about 4 ribs)
2 cups chopped onion (2 large)
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons butter/margarine
1 cup long grain rice, brown or white
Reserved corn bread cubes
2 cups cubed stale whole wheat bread
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon tarragon, crumbled
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
TO PREPARE THE CORNBREAD
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the corn meal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set the bowl aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter or margarine. Add the ingredients of the small bowl to the flour mixture, and beat the batter with an eggbeater for about 1 minute or until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into a greased 9 X 13-inch cake pan.
4. Put the pan in the hot oven, and bake the bread for about 25 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Take the pan out of the oven, cool the bread, cut it into ½-inch cubes, and set it aside.
TO PREPARE THE STUFFING
1. While the corn bread bakes, in a medium-sized saucepan, combine the water, giblets, the ¾ cup of diced celery, carrot, the small onion, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer the giblets for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are tender. Remove the cooked giblets from the pan, strain the broth into a measuring cup, and reserve both the giblets and the broth. Remove the cooked flesh from the turkey neck, discarding the skin, chop the reserved giblets, and set them aside.
2. In a large saucepan or skillet, preferably one with a nonstick surface, sauté the 2 cups of celery, the 2 cups of onion, and the mushrooms in the butter/margarine until the onions are just soft. Stir in the rice, and brown it lightly, stirring it constantly. Add the reserved giblet broth and enough water to measure 3 cups. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer the rice for 15 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine the rice-vegetable mixture with the reserved chopped giblets, the reserved corn bread, cubed whole-wheat bread, pecans, sage, thyme, tarragon, salt, and pepper. Mix the ingredients to combine thoroughly.
Everything can be made in advance, except for adding the oysters. Just stir them in with their liquor right before baking the dressing.
For the Oyster part, I added one pint of oysters with the liquor to about a quarter of the dressing I made. So, I guess to make the whole thing with oysters you'd have to add 4 pints.
[This is me again: You can bake stuffing/dressing in or out of the bird. In our family, there was always 'plain' stuffing in the turkey and oyster stuffing baked on its own, in a buttered dish at about 375 degrees for an hour. Not everyone likes oyster-flavored turkey, apparently.]