San Antonio chef Braunda Smith shares her favorite recipe for leftover Thanksgiving turkey

click to enlarge San Antonio chef Braunda Smith shares her favorite recipe for leftover Thanksgiving turkey
Courtesy of Braunda Smith
Known for her approach to down-home southern cooking, Lucy Cooper’s owner Braunda Smith is no stranger to a huge holiday spread.

The mother of six knows how to maximize on a meal, and Thanksgiving dinner is no exception — leftovers are king, and when a recipe comes along that’s a step above the tired turkey sando, we’re all over it.

“One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is our tradition of next day leftover gumbo,” Smith told the Current. “The smells of this old family favorite flow through our house like a warm hug from my Maw Maw.”

Smith’s gumbo recipe calls for common holiday ingredients such as chicken stock, celery and onion. The only thing that requires a bit of patience and finesse is the addition of a brown roux. Creating a roux is a French cooking technique that utilizes flour and fat — butter, in this case — to create a thickening agent for rich brown sauces and gumbos.

“I have gotten much better and wiser over the years, so I have to brag a minute about that,” Smith joked. “In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I do all of my prep work so all of my veggies are chopped, taters washed, mac cooked; you get the picture.”

Follow Smith’s advice, and you can have all of the prep done for this classic comfort dish ahead of time, making for even less work on your — ahem — plate.

“It's even better the next day,” Smith says. “Thanksgiving dinner is the gift that keeps on giving.” Below, find the complete recipe for Chef Lucy's Damn Fine Leftover Gumbo, a holiday tradition in the Smith household.

Chef Lucy's Damn Fine Leftover Gumbo

1 large portion of leftover turkey

1 cup chopped leftover ham

1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices

3 large white or yellow onions, chopped

4 cups fresh or frozen okra, sliced

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

4 cloves garlic, chopped

Salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup butter

6 cups hot chicken stock

Cut turkey into medium-sized cubes, season with salt and pepper. Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large heavy skillet — cast iron if you've got it — and fry it long enough to add some color. Remember that it’s already been baked, so avoid overcooking. Repeat for sausage. Remove and set aside.

Add one tablespoon of oil in a medium heated skillet and add okra.

Smith advises moving the okra around quite a bit so it doesn't stick to the pan. As the veggie starts to break down, it will get a slimy texture, and that’s exactly what you want — it’s the thickening agent for the gumbo. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add remaining butter to a large, heavy pot — Smith prefers a dutch oven — for the roux.

Add flour to melted butter. Cook, stirring frequently, for two minutes on low heat, until the mixture is bubbly and foamy. At this point, it should look like a thick paste. You will want a brown roux, so keep going for at least another 20 minutes. It will develop a deep, rich, nutty flavor and aroma.

The best way to avoid burnt roux is to stir constantly and lower the heat to medium-low. After the roux is made, add all chopped ingredients except garlic and parsley. Cook until onions are clear, stirring occasionally. 

Add sliced andouille, ham and turkey to roux mixture, cover, and let simmer about 1/2 hour. Stir often during this process. Keep the heat low, being sure not to neglect the pot. To avoid scorching the gumbo, give it love and attention by stirring occasionally.

Add chicken stock, garlic, parsley and okra. Increase the heat until the mixture begins to boil. Lower to a simmer, cover and cook one-and-a-half to two hours, stirring occasionally.

To serve, Smith recommends sprinkling filé powder — a cajun culinary staple — on a bowl of rice for an extra layer of flavor before spooning a heaping helping of gumbo on top.

If you can’t get your hands on andouille sausage, smoked sausage is an appropriate substitute.

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Nina Rangel

Nina Rangel uses nearly 20 years of experience in the foodservice industry to tell the stories of movers and shakers in the food scene in San Antonio. As the Food + Nightlife Editor for the San Antonio Current, she showcases her passion for the Alamo City’s culinary community by promoting local flavors, uncovering...

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