Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CSA week 12 - Gumbo z'herbes

I'm not entirely certain about this. There are lots of recipes out there but they all agree on simmering the greens two hours or longer. Collards, OK maybe they can handle that. But chard and turnip greens? And what about the dandelion greens? Most of the recipes put them on the list of greens to include but nobody prepares them to deal with the bitterness.

I'm going to try it, but I dunno.

First step, clean and prep 2-3 pounds of greens--whatever you've got, the more variety the better. For those who haven't read the previous post, I had 1 bunch collards, 1 bunch chard, 1 bunch dandelion greens, 1 bunch turnip greens and 1 bunch radish greens. I did this prep the night before to avoid having dinner too very late.

Next step, get a gallon of water and/or stock (I used two cups of shrimp stock and the rest water) to a boil in a large pot and add the greens. Simmer for at least an hour.

Meanwhile,make a roux. I used the in-oven method. Mix equal parts fat and flour (I used 2 Tablespoons bacon drippings, 3 Tablespoons canola oil and 5 Tablespoons flour) in a big cast iron pot and put it in a 350 degree oven for at least an hour. No stirring necessary. The recipes that specify call for a peanut-butter colored roux, but they all also call for filé powder added at the end too. I don't have any filé so I'm not going to get that thickening. And, as you probably know, the darker the roux, the more flavor, but the less thickening power. So I pulled it out of the oven at around 1 hour 20 minutes. It looks peanut butter colored, but it started a little dark from the bacon drippings so I think I'm in good shape.

After that time, the greens have wilted considerably. Here they are along with half a cabbage, 1 bunch scallions and 1 bunch parsley that are going back into the pot with them later.

But before that, the pot with the roux goes up on the stove and in goes 1 large white onion, 1 green bell pepper and 3 stalks celery, chopped. I cooked that for 10 minutes over medium-high heat before adding the reserved stock and greens which I've roughly chopped, the cabbage, scallion and parsley (although what good scallion and parsley added this early will do I dunno), a ham hock, 2 bay leaves, 4 stalks thyme, 1 stalk rosemary, 4 allspice berries and a generous amount pre-mixed Cajun spice blend because I'm lazy.

It's at this point that I finally understand exactly how huge this batch of gumbo is. I'm going to be eating this for a month; it better be good.

Normally, that's the dish. Just simmer an hour more and serve, but I wanted it a little heartier so I added a couple links of andouille sausage and, 5 minutes before the end, a quarter pound of shrimp.

And here it is served over rice:

Hmmm...no real thickening at all. Or roux flavor, either, disappointingly. This is basically a huge mess of greens in a bucket of pot liquor. Lacking the filé powder, maybe I'll make up a slurry and bring it back up to a boil to thicken it up. It'll probably add a little raw flour flavor, but I'll trade that off for making this sauce into gravy. The greens still have a tiny bit of texture to them--the cabbage a little more--but mainly it's just soft. It's not falling apart like I expected though, so it's still in a pleasant neighborhood.

The flavors of the greens have all melded together to just a generic tasty green. No notable bitterness, or skunkiness from the boiled cabbage either. The herbs and spices round out the flavor a little and there's a hint of smokiness there. The sausage and shrimp weren't in long enough to swap flavors with the greens so they've retained all their flavor. The shrimp are a nice match, the sausage a bit less so. That'll probably change as everything melds in the refrigerator over night, though. I'll have some for lunch tomorrow and report back in a comment.


kat said...

That is a mess of greens! Hope you can figure out how to thicken it

Russell Hews Everett said...

I think Milam's has Gumbo File powder in their spice aisle, that'll thicken 'er right up.

billjac said...

OK, it's tomorrow and the flavors have indeed mellowed and melded. There's now a meatiness throughout that bolsters the greens. Picking the meat off the ham hocks probably helped with that.

The sauce is a little thicker, but that aspect still needs improvement. I'll check out Milam's for the file powder. Thanks for the tip, Russell.