gumbo z’herbes

As mentioned in the last post, we went to Destrehan yesterday to check out the farmer’s market. There was a wonderful abundance of winter produce available. I remember reading somewhere recently, perhaps it was in Judy Walker’s Thursday column that now is the time for cooking greens. I started counting all the available greens at the market and decided to cook a Gumbo Z’Herbes over the 3 day weekend. I struck up conversations with the women from whom I was buying produce, and learned how to wash the greens (in a large bowl, submerged, rinsed, repeat until the water runs clear). In return, I shared with them how it is cooked in New Orleans and how Leah Chase directs cooks to use an odd number of greens with at least 5 to start (I used eleven types of greens) – symbolic for the number of friends one has or something to that effect. I was also able to get fresh andouille sausage and tasso for the gumbo.

I broke out the cookbooks and began comparing recipes. Not all of my cookbooks had the recipe, but the ones that did called it various names: Gumbo aux Herbes, Gumbo des Herbes, Gumbo Zab, Gumbo Vert, Green Gumbo, and the widely recognized New Orleans name Gumbo Z’Herbes. After comparing recipes, I decided to mix several versions of ingredients listed, but decided to use the cooking process found in Mercedes Vidrine’s cookbook, Louisiana Lagniappe. This cookbook is a compilation of Mrs. Vidrine’s 4 Quelque Chose cookbooks, and it includes all the recipes found in the four volumes. Something interesting I noticed, none of the recipes called for okra, but a few included an addition of file’ after ladling into the bowl.

I did not grow up eating greens – so cooking them intimidated me for a long time. Hearing women describe how it was near impossible to get them really clean (wash all the sand out) kept me from attempting them in the kitchen, but last fall I tried my hand at mustard greens that C grew. It was soooo easy, I wanted to do it again, and Gumbo Z’Herbes seemed like the best way to really tackle cooking greens. I just finished the process and now the stock pot is simmering, a total of 5 hours effort, 2 1/2 spent preparing and washing all the greens. This is the gumbo that Leah Chase serves on Holy Thursday – if you want to make it a Good Friday dish, use butter to make your roux, and add any combination of oysters, crab, shrimp, etc. to make it meatless. Here is the recipe, with pictures…

11 types greens

1 small bunch arugula
1 small bunch kale
1 bunch kohlrabi
1 bunch beet greens
1 bag spinach
1 bunch mustard greens
1 bunch collard greens
1 bunch swiss chard
1 bunch bok choi
1/2 head cabbage
1/2 head iceberg lettuce

(other types greens one can use: carrot greens, chicory, watercress, pepper grass, turnip greens, radish greens, nasturtiums, etc.)

meats

1 1/2 pounds andouille
1 pound cooked beef brisket
1/2 pound tasso
(can also use ham, stew meat, pickle pork)
1 pound bacon, cooked and drippings saved to make roux
1 cup flour for roux

seasonings

1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
4 stalks chopped celery
garlic
1 large bunch chopped shallots
1 bunch chopped parsley
1 bunch fennel
4 minced jalapenos
3 tablespoons vinegar
salt, pepper, hot sauce

How to make it

Strip the leaves off all the greens, removing the woody stems. Soak in large bowl in cold water, drain, soak again until the water runs clear. Stuff all the greens (omit the shallots) in a large stock pot and add 2 quarts water. Cover and steam until wilted, about 30 minutes. Drain greens and reserve the liquid (pot likker!) and chop greens fine or use a blender (blender is the preferred method). Fry off the bacon, remove then add about a cup of flour to the bacon drippings and make a roux. Once roux is ready add the chopped seasonings (celery, bell pepper, onion, shallots, jalapenos, garlic). Cut the meats (andouille, bacon, tasso, brisket) into small pieces and place in stock pot. After the seasonings are translucent, add to the stock pot with pot likker, and meats, and bring to a boil. Add the greens, parsley, fennel, salt pepper, vinegar and hot sauce, bring to a boil then simmer until thick. Serve over rice or grits, with some cornbread on the side.

Here is the pictorial

The steamed greens and the earthy pot likker

The greens pureed in the blender

Andouille and tasso

all the chopped seasonings

1/2 inch bacon drippings and about a cup of flour for the roux

Roux part 1 (keep stirring)…

Roux part 2 (keep stirring)…

Roux part 3 (keep stirring – I now begin to smell that nutty aroma, so not much longer)…

The finished roux – over high heat it took 10 minutes to get to this stage

To stop the cooking process of the roux, immediately add the seasonings

The veggies beginning to cook down and merge with the roux

Don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the pan!

So now add the seasonings, pot likker and pureed greens to the stock pot

bring this to a boil, then simmer uncovered

and 90 minutes later…

Gumbo Z’Herbes!

epilogue – this effort made about 10 quarts of gumbo – next time, I will use either andouille or tasso – the gumbo came out with a very smoky flavor, delicious, but perhaps ham in place of one of these will balance it a tiny bit better. Can’t wait to eat this again tomorrow after all the flavors come together!

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~ by maringouin on Sunday, January 18, 2009.

9 Responses to “gumbo z’herbes”

  1. Great post. 7:30 in the morning you have me drooling for a taste of this.

  2. Mmmmmm….foood porn….

  3. I work with the Travel Channel’s online community team and given your proximity to New Orleans and interest in food and cooking, thought you might be interested to know that Travel Channel’s Man V. Food will be featuring the Big Easy in this week’s episode, which airs Wednesday, January 28th, at 10pm ET. I can send you more info and a link to embed video on your blog if you’d like.

  4. i was looking for recipes for this and i found your post. ha! anyway, thinking of trying it (it was in da paper today), so i’ll post my results if they’re not disastrous. sure looks yummy in your pics!

  5. That’s pretty cool – ever since I posted this I get a lot of hits for the recipe. I’ll check your blog for your version, hope it comes out good!

    Stay tuned, I have half a dozen teal in my freezer and I’ll be making duck & andouille gumbo over the Easter break

  6. I love this recipe, but isn’t there a particular herb that grows wild, usually in sandy soil along train tracks for example, that is considered by many to be absolutely indispensable for making this dish, and is missing from the ingredients?

    I can’t remember the name of the herb, but would love it if someone could remind me of what it is.

    Any help to uncover this mystery green would be very much appreciated.

    Thank ya kindly,

  7. I should have read your recipe more closely. It is listed as one of the other types greens one can use, and it is pepper-grass, which makes this recipe the finest by far on the web.

    Thank you again

  8. Several recipes, as well as one of the women I spoke to at the Destrehan farmer’s market mentioned using pepper grass. I am not familiar with that particular green and didn’t want to pick the wrong herb and possibly spoil the dish – using arugula might have bridged the gap with the peppery green needed

    Note the recipe on which I based my version is on a cookbook from the Eunice area and not a true New Orleans gumbo z’herbes preparation.

    hope you enjoy your version

  9. Polk Salad Greens

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