Sunday, 1 July 2007

Gumbo 'Z'erbes

Gumbo 'z'erbes (aux herbes) is a kind of stone soup; something good made from scraps of this 'n' that, in this case a mixture of greens. Consequently, it's a very flexible recipe. Traditionally in Louisiana it was served as a meat-free dish (although it's not clear to me whether that would exclude the bacon fat or not) during Lent. However, there is no chance of making this dish during Lent in Ontario, so you might as well throw in some bacon and/or sausage if you can. A little pork does wonders for such dark and rather overwhelming greens. If you don't eat pork, consider using smoked turkey pieces cooked in advance to provide the broth as well as the meat.

You can use familiar greens like spinach, kale, beet-greens and chard, or less familiar greens like radish or turnip tops and the leaves from cauliflower and broccoli. They are really quite edible.

Gumbo ZerbesThe finished dish.

Greens used to make Gumbo ZerbesFor this batch I used a handful of spinach, the leaves from a cauliflower, the leaves from a head of broccoli, about half the tops from the radishes, the tops from two onions, a stalk of celery, and some chopped up raw veggies left-over from another meal.

Preparing brassica leaves such as chard, broccoli, kale or cabbageAs is usually the case with brassicas, the thin dark leafy parts of the leaves are the best; the wide tough mid-ribs are not appetizing and are discarded. It's easiest to just start pulling up the ribs from the bottom, ripping off the leafy parts until you reach a part of the mid-rib that is tender enough that it snaps in your hand.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

6 to 8 cups chopped greens (use a mixture of at least 4 kinds)

1 large onion (I used 2 smaller ones)
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil OR bacon fat
OR 200 grams lean bacon and 200 grams chorizo (optional)
1/4 cup flour (I used rice flour)
5 cups broth
2 bay leaves

4 cups cooked rice

Wash the greens, strip them of any coarse stems and damaged or yellowed parts, roll them up and shred them finely. Measure them and put them in a large pot. Steam them in the water that clings to them after washing. When well wilted, remove them from the heat and set them aside.

Peel and chop the onion, and set it aside in a bowl. Crush the pepper and allspice together, and add them to the onion along with the other spices.

Chop the bacon and sausage. Heat the bacon or fat in a skillet, and sprinkle the flour over. Cook over medium heat until the flour is well amalgamated and browned, stirring constantly.

Meanwhile, heat the broth with the sausage slices (if using) and bay leaves.

When the roux is cooked (the bacon/fat and flour) mix in some of the broth to loosen, then add it to the pot of broth. Add the cooked greens and heat through, stirring well.

Serve over freshly cooked rice, or if you have left-over cooked rice, break it up with wet hands into the gumbo and heat it with the greens.


Donwatcher said...

Do you need the flour if you use vegetable oil instead of the meat?

Ferdzy said...

Yes. The flour is to thicken the broth a little; it shouldn't be too soupy. Also it should get fairly brown because that's one of the flavour elements.