I love gumbo and I love collard greens
This is post #2 of posts inspired by movie soundtrack songs. Today’s recipe is driven by a song from the movie Brown Sugar, “Love of My Life.” To be able to enjoy a dish that combines the process of making gumbo with my favorite dish (greens, especially collard greens) to eat is a wonderful thing. I won’t say it’s the best dish I’ve made, but it wouldn’t be an overstatement to call it the love of my life.
I can distinctly recall the day I fell in love with Gumbo Z’herbs. It was the Christmas holidays of my freshman year in college. I had broken my jaw and my mouth was wired shut. The pain, discomfort, and coming weightloss was the least of my worries, as the notion that I would miss our traditional New Year’s Dinner which included collard greens, blackeyed peas and chitlins’. I had surgery New Year’s eve and was home recovering after a few days. At home there leftovers from the NYE dinner plus a bowl of uneaten gumbo from the restaurant chain Pappadeux.
This is where things get interesting. Being the traditionalist that I am I had a dilemma given my mouth was wired shut. But there was hope – the oral surgeon intentionally gave me an overbite when wiring me up so I could eat through a straw. Furthermore I had a pair of wire cutters alwayd on hand in the unfortunate case that I suffered from any nausea and needed to avoid death by choking on my own vomit. But I was having collard greens, black-eed peas, chitlins’, and that gumbo by any means necessary. Well we had a blender so there was a shot. I made three “smoothies” – just collard greens and pepper sauce, chitlins with peas, and gumbo with greens. I know it doesn’t sound appetizing in the least bit, and honestly it wasn’t.
Luckily I didn’t need the wire cutters, though I was nervous for a good three days. The moment I feared never came, but the taste from the gumbo and greens smoothie always stuck with me. Later when I started making gumbo, I eventually started adding greens and then just did away with the meat and seafood alltogether for this recipe. Later I learned that people like the famous Leah Chase and other chefs in the Big Easy had been doing this for years with a plethora of different greens.
I’m also a thyme guy, and prefer gumbo recipes that are heavy on the thyme as you’ll get if you follow the recipe exactly. You can definitely use a homemade stock, but I wanted a clean and heavy fresh herbal taste, so I made my own. I also wanted to stay true to gumbo so included a roux. In this version I used a simple, no fuss oven baked one. It guess the color and taste profile I want without the elbow and forearm fatigue you get from traditional methods. More often than not, I take the traditional path, but this is convenience without taste/color sacrifice.
Great beats, better eats. Enjoy!
“Love of My Life” Vegan Gumbo Z’Herbs
For the Gumbo
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 4 pounds about 6 bunches assorted greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, spinach, chard, and kale), trimmed, washed, and dried
- 1/2 medium cabbage roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1 cup chopped bell peppers
- 2 cups okra chopped (fresh or frozen)
For the Stock
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 5 bay leaves
- 1 12 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 medium white onion
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 medium carrots tops removed and halved
- 1 Celery stick halved
- 3-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2-3 sprigs of fresh oregano
- 2 whole basil leaves
- 3 dried morita chiles optional
For the Roux
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup of vegetable oil
Prepare the roux.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine oil and flour in a cast iron skillet and mix well.
Add roux to the oven and bake until you achieve desired color. You may need to check and stir every 15-20 minutes until down.
Remove and reserve for gumbo
Make the stock
In a large stockpot add pasta insert and water. Bring to a boil and add all stock ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. If using dried chiles, remove after 5 minutes as to avoid them dissolving and thus releasing fiery seeds into the stock.
Lift the insert out of the pot and place in a sink or dispose of in trash can.
Make the gumbo
Bring the stock back up to a boil and then reduce to simmer.
Add the spices, onions, and peppers (feel free to salute first for additional flavor) to the remaining stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, greens, okra and cabbage. As an option add more bay leaves and fresh thyme. Stir well and add the roux.
Simmer for an additional hour. If added remove the extra bay leaves and fresh thyme.
Serve with rice.