Soup du Jour

by Mary Tutwiler

Two local chefs stir up their own Thanksgiving traditions.

Louisiana's harvest of sweet potatoes is at its height right now, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Most fall feasts include a casserole of candied yams, or sweet potatoes whipped with butter, bourbon and pecans. Charley G's sous chef Matt Hebert defies the commonplace, stirring up a rich autumnal soup that combines the mellow flavor of sweet potatoes with the bounty of tasso and andouille sausage from local smokehouses.

Hebert was inspired one day while grilling sweet potatoes. "I'd made lots of potato soups in the past, and so I thought I'd make a sweet potato soup," he says. "The first batch was real smoky from the grill. I started playing around with it; I wanted to make the flavor richer. So I added the andouille, and it evolved from there." Hebert liked it so much he served the soup at his own wedding. Now it has its own place on the fall menu at Charley G's.

The day-after-Thanksgiving heralds a less strenuous Acadiana activity than hitting the mall. Chef Pat Mould, who is making a national name for himself frying turkeys on TV, has his own tradition. He's perfecting the art of cooking turkey gumbo while loafing around on the sofa watching football games.

"I make a rich stock with the turkey carcass, which simmers most of the day," Mould says. "That's the base of the gumbo. While the stock is simmering, I make a dark roux in the oven. When I was in the restaurant business we made mass quantities of oven-roasted roux. You only have to stir it about every half-an-hour or so. You don't have to baby-sit it. That way, you have the stock on the stove, the roux in the oven and you can watch football games all day. The beauty of the day after Thanksgiving is you can turn on the TV, and someone is playing football somewhere. And of course you have the newly released Beaujolais Nouveau to drink. Just finish up what's left over from the day before."

Charley G's Sweet Potato and Tasso Bisque(6 servings)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 celery stalk, chopped
1/4 lb. tasso, shredded in food processor
1/4 lb. andouille, shredded in food processor
1 pint chicken stock (some in reserve to thin soup if it's too thick)
1 pint whipping cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 lb. (1 stick) salt butter
Creme fraiche or sour cream
Chopped parsley
In heavy bottomed stock pot cook onion and celery in butter until translucent. Add tasso and andouille. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer or slow boil. Allow to cook until sweet potatoes are crumbling apart. Puree using hand blender or food processor. Adjust salt. Garnish each bowl of soup with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of parsley.

Turkey, Smoked Sausage & Shrimp Gumbo (8 servings)
To make turkey stock:
1 turkey carcass boned; reserve the meat and discard skin. If you don't have enough meat or you don't have a turkey carcass, use a 2½ lb. bone-in turkey breast.
12 cups water
1½ teaspoon salt, divided
1 bay leaf

To make gumbo:
10 cups of turkey stock
Reserved turkey meat
¾ cup dark roux (see recipe below)
½ lb. smoked sausage, sliced
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb. medium peeled shrimp
½ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup minced parsley
4 cups steamed rice
Place turkey bones, or whole turkey breast, water, ½ teaspoon salt and bay leaf in a stock pot. Bring to boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and reserve liquid. If using turkey breast, allow turkey to cool, discarding bones and skin. Dice meat and set aside.

Heat a large saucepot and add sliced smoked sausage and cook until browned. Stir in onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add turkey stock and bring to boil. Add dark roux, Worcestershire, hot sauce and remaining salt and simmer for 1 hour. Add diced turkey, shrimp and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in green onions and parsley. Divide rice into 8 large bowls and ladle in gumbo.

Dark Roux (approximately 7 cups):
3 cups peanut oil
4½ cups flour
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy aluminum sauté pan heat peanut oil on medium high heat of 10 minutes. Slowly whisk in flour until completely incorporated. Cook for 15 minutes stirring constantly until roux begins to brown slightly. Place in pre-heated oven and cook for 1 hour stirring every 20 minutes. Reduce over temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 1 additional hour, stirring every 20 minutes until desired dark color is obtained. Allow roux to cool before using in gumbo. Can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer indefinitely.