In keeping with the food theme this week, and to echo the tribute to Ashley Morris one of the consummate New Orleans foodies, a time honored New Orleans Easter tradition is to have gumbo z’herbes on Holy Thursday at Dooky Chase’s, or prepare a meatless version to serve for Good Friday’s Catholic day of fast. Here is a recipe for a gumbo z’herbes version with meat, but one could easily omit the meat and use a vegetable stock for the preparation. This is a reproduction of the original post published in January 2009.
…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.)
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
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
4 stalks chopped celery
1 large bunch chopped shallots
1 bunch chopped parsley
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)…
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…
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!