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!
- 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)
- 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)
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup of vegetable oil
- 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
- 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.
- 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.