-- Green Gumbo or Gumbo Z'herbes
January 1, 1970Nighttime temperatures have fallen. The kale and collards in my gardens have been “sweetened” enormously by the frosts. And so I spent the day yesterday picking different greens from my garden (and the gardens of friends) to make the base for green gumbo or gumbo Z’herbes. The greens included kale, collard, sorrel, chard, beet and mustard greens from my garden and parsley and leeks from my neighbors’ (the exact combination is not unimportant; what is important is variety), to which I added chopped carrots and celery from the fridge and some spinach I had in my freezer. The recipe I used was a hodgepodge of different recipes; but the result was delicious and will be the centerpiece of our Christmas Eve dinner. I reconstruct it here but the reader should feel free to play with any and all of the ingredients. Once tasted, you’ll think differently about collard and kale. For some reason, I never encountered green gumbo when I lived in New Orleans (and was a student at Tulane). Now that I experienced its indescribable taste, it's sure to become a winter staple.
For the roux (the basis of all gumbos):
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup flour
Heat the oil in a heavy pan. Slowly add flour, whisking constantly. Whisk (off and on) for 10 minutes or so until the roux is a golden peanut color.
For the vegetables:
In a heavy pan melt 1 tablespoon or so of butter and sauté the chopped white portion of 2 leeks, 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, and 2 cloves garlic. Add 6-8 cups chopped greens and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are very tender. Add 1 tablespoon gumbo file (sassafras leaves), 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, cayenne pepper and salt to taste, then stir the vegetables into the roux. Pulse the mixture briefly in a cuisinart for a more even constituency. This base can be frozen until needed. To make the final gumbo, thin the base with chicken broth and add any combination you like (or have at hand) of chopped, sautéed kielbasa or ham and shrimp, crab, and lean fish like halibut. Serve with boiled white rice. Serves 8-10.
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