Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gumbo Z'Herbes (Green Gumbo)

When I think about greens, I first think of my mother who never met a green she didn't like and passed on her love of all forms of Brassica to all her children. I think of the simplicity of southern food--AKA comfort food. I think of my garden in summer and giving away the leafy, nutritious treasures to friends, pressure canning dozens of jars and shelving them for cold days like this in the dead of winter.

This hearty dish is described as one that breaks all the rules about gumbo. It uses neither okra or file'. It is the only gumbo in which the roux is not prepared first. Originally, it contained no meat, seafood, or game. Futhermore, it also does not contain the holy trinity or magic three of peppers, celery and onion. This gumbo started out as a traditional Lenten dish to be served on Good Friday. Legend had it that you would make as many friends as the number of different greens you put in the pot. Eight greens = eight new friends. The flavor that evolves from combining many different greens is what makes this gumbo so delicious. Today, this dish has seen the addition of meat. Like all gumbos, expect an obscene amount so be prepared to either share with a crowd or freeze the leftovers. The most difficult part of making this dish is washing, rinsing and preparing the greens.

For you haters of gumbo--No, there is no okra or file' in this recipe. That's usually the first question people ask me when I make and offer gumbo. I don't know what it is that people hate about okra. Okay, it does have that "snot-like" consistency, I'll give you that, but the good: okra is low in saturated fat and sodium, and very low in cholesterol. It is also a good source of protein, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, magnesium and manganese. Never mind the lecture about the benefits of okra, and I'll get off the okra soapbox--as I said, this gumbo does not call for okra!

The recipe comes from "The New Orleans Cookbook" by Rima and Richard Collin, ISBN: 0-394-75257-9, April 1987.

Greens: As many of these as are available, a minimum of 5 is adequate, 7-8 are perfect
*most of these greens I had canned from our garden--they need not be fresh picked (I used collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, parsley, spinach, radish tops, cabbage, chicory and kale)

Select from the following:
1 bunch collard greens
1 bunch mustard greens
1 bunch turnip greens
1 bunch shallots (scallions)
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch watercress
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch beet tops
1 bunch radish tops (I didn't know you could eat radish tops and always threw them away!)
1 small head green cabbage
1 bunch chicory (AKA Belgian Endive--who knew!)
1 bunch carrot tops
1 bunch kale

Gumbo Base:
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 lb. lean baked ham, cut into cubes
1/2 lb. Creole (Polish, French garlic, Portugese)sausage cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 lb. veal or chicken cut into 1/2" cubes (I used chicken)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup flour

Liquid and Seasonings:
2 qt. chicken stock plus 1/3 cup cold water (I used turkey stock I made and froze last year)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne (we like it spicy so I used more)
2 whole bay leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
2 whole cloves
6 whole allspice

Rice: Enough for everyone
Louisianna Hot Sauce: Garnish

Wash the greens really well--they have a reputation for holding onto sand and dirt. Place greens in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain excess water. Place greens in heavy 3 to 4 quart pot or dutch oven. Add 1/3 cup cold water and turn the heat to medium high. When the liquid at the bottom of the pan begins to boil, cover the pan tightly, reduce the heat to medium low and cook the greens for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Remove the pan from the heat and reserve the liquid formed from cooking by draining the greens. Chop the cooked greens fine and set aside.

In a large 7-8 quart pot heat the oil, keep heat at medium-low and add the flour. Stir constantly until flour reaches a peanut butter color. Add onion and stir thoroughly and continue browning for 5 more minutes stirring constantly. Add the ham, sausage, veal/chicken and the liquid reserved from the greens. Mix well and stir in the greens and seasonings. Turn the heat to low and add 2 quarts broth. Bring the gumbo to a boil, reduce heat again and simmer for 1 1/4 hours stirring every now and then. Serve over rice--of course! For those of us who like it REALLY spicy, dash on some Louisianna Hot Sauce.

So, I used 9 different greens, so I am now eagerly awaiting making 9 new friends.

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