Gumbo!


shrimpgumbo.jpg

Up above is a photo of a plate of shrimp gumbo; but I thought that since this is November, and the temperatures dipping, people might want to have something different. This is soup season. It’s a Creole recipe for gumbo zhebes, or gumbo z’herbes or in English, green gumbo–gumbo with greens. It’s normally made during Lent, on the day before Good Friday, for good luck.

The best recipe I have tried is from the Gumbo Pages, particularly when the recipe contains andouille sausage, a hot sausage that tends to pepper as well as salt the pot. In other words, you don’t have to add a lot of seasoning because the sausage will do it all for you.

As always, start out with the roux. You can always make it and set it aside until you’re ready. Roux is simply a soup thickener, made with your choice of cooking oil (or bacon drippings) and flour. But you can also season the roux, and this is how people can jump from being mere cooks to gourmets.

Here are the ingredients:

* 1 bunch collard greens
* 1 bunch mustard greens
* 1 bunch turnip greens
* 1 bunch spinach
* 1 bunch watercress
* 1 bunch beet tops
* 1 bunch carrot tops
* 1 bunch radish tops
* 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
* 1 bunch chicory
* 1 bunch pepper grass (consult your green grocer)
* 1 bunch arugula
* 1 bunch sorrel
* 1 bunch dandelion greens
* 8 or 10 sprigs of tarragon
* 1 head romaine, green-leaf or butter lettuce (iceberg NOT allowed)
* 1 green cabbage
* 1/2 bunch green onions

* 1 gallon water, salted
* 6 tablespoons flour
* 4 tablespoons oil or shortening
* 1 large white onion, chopped
* 1 bell pepper, chopped
* 3 ribs celery, chopped
* 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
* 2 bay leaves
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme (NOT dried)
* 2 whole cloves
* 2 whole allspice berries
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* Cayenne pepper to taste

* 6 cups cooked long-grain white rice

(Over here in Madison, hot sausage is hard to find. I mean, really HOT sausage. But Woodman’s East or West has packaged greens like collards and mustards and even dandelion greens in the produce sections.)

The great Creole chef Leah Chase, founder and operator of Dooky Chase, once wrote that the greens should add up to an odd number like 7, 9, 11, etc. (Oh, oh. Voudou, folks) according to your taste and preference. Chase reminisced that when she was a little girl, her family members would go out to the neutral ground (median) between the lanes of Canal Street and pick nut grass. According to Wikipedia, nut grass is bitter tasting but is edible and nutritious, and is an African tuber used as food during famine. The young shoots of pokeweed (wash carefully several times), or pepper grass (a mustard green) is also good. But remember, older shoots of pokeweed (or polk sallat) have a laxative effect. I’d stick with pepper grass.

I wouldn’t try picking the stuff in the wild or on any neutral ground nowadays. There aren’t many safe, empty fields to harvest that haven’t been used as dumps. Consult with your green grocer, your local farmer’s market, or health food store manager. Chase is in her nineties. Those were the days, okay?

Wash all greens thoroughly and remove all stems or hard centers. Boil them all together in the water for about two hours. Strain the greens and reserve the water. When cool, chop the greens finely and set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot make a brown roux of the flour and shortening. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and sauté 5 more minutes.

Here is where you could make a vegan dish into a meat dish: sauté and then add 1 pound each of diced smoked ham and diced veal to the gumbo. Me, I’d rather use 1 pound each of Cajun andouille (also known as hot link sausages), or better yet, Creole hot sausage. I don’t know about you, but I usually add any drippings into the gumbo, too.

Add the reserved water from the greens, the cooked greens, herbs, spices, and seasonings. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Adjust seasonings as necessary and don’t forget to stir in the filé at the last.

Serve in large gumbo bowls. Put 1/2 cup of rice in each bowl, and ladle generous portions over it. Get ready to see a rush for seconds, and even thirds.

It should keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Enjoy. It should be a great repast for these harvest days.


2 Responses to “Gumbo!”

  1. Interesting….I knew there were many varieties of gumbo, but never imagined. Sounds right though!!

    • So when are you going to try it?

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