I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

February 10, 2010

Laissez le bon temp rouler!

Once again driving home from Ojai after a pleasantly busy day my brain was all aflutter with ideas for dinner....I was rounding the turn at the 33 and 101 when the light bulb that resides in my brain went off and I remembered that I didn't HAVE to cook! It was American Idol night at Mom & Dad's and Mom was making dinner for us.

So I mentally relaxed and stopped by my house for a nice bottle of wine and had visions of me sitting at the counter with a glass of wine writing my blog while mom slaved over the stove making delicious din din for all of us.

Not so much.

Miss Mom had to go and get herself a facial today which meant when I showed up that she wasn't there...neither was her laptop or camera. So I did what a good daughter does and I started cooking for her. Fortunately for me she left the recipe out and I started chopping, dicing, slicing and sauteing.

And what are we having tonight you ask???

Gumbo Z'Herbes For Luck, Feasts and Fasts

As yesterday was Fat Tuesday and for the last few weeks New Orleans has been celebrating not only making it to the Super Bowl for the first time, but then winning it, I thought it appropriate to write about a Cajun dish that focuses on celebrations. I have it on good authority from friends and clients that there has been a parade every day since January 23rd somewhere in the city of New Orleans. Good for them...that city needed some love. :) I kind of wish we had that many parades....we all could use a little more celebration in our lives.

Gumbo Z'Herbes is traditionally a spicy meatless dish served during Lent...but most cooks can't help but add in a ham hock or chopped up ham to it. Mom and I use the smoked turkey legs that can be found in most grocery meat aisles-this offers up a fraction of the fat and all of the flavor. The greens are fairly interchangeable, you can use just about any combination of collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, watercress & parsley. If you are short on one, just increase quantities on the others. When served on Good Friday this dish is believed to bring friendship and good luck...for every different green that is added to the stew, a new friend will be made that year.

Cheers, Salud, Slainte, Cin Cin and Prost....here's to health, luck friendship and love in this next year!

Gumbo Z'herbes
Makes 10 servings

1T tablespoons Vegetable Oil
4 C 1/2-inch cubes smoked ham or smoked turkey (about 22 ounces)

2 T Butter
6 C Sliced Leeks (white and pale green parts only; from about 5 large)
2 C Finely Chopped Celery
2 C Sliced Green Onions (about 8)
1 C Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley
5 Large Garlic Cloves, Chopped
3 T Filé Powder*
1 T Chopped Fresh Oregano
3/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
8 C Sliced Collard Greens (about 8 ounces)
8 C Sliced Mustard Greens (about 8 ounces)
4 C Fresh Spinach Leaves
Note-Buy the pre chopped packaged ones from Trader Joes....too easy!

1/2 tsp Sugar

10 C Low-Salt Chicken Broth, divided
3/4 C Butter

3/4 C All Purpose Flour

Cooked White Rice

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy extra-large pot over medium-high heat. Add ham/turkey; sauté until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl and reserve. Melt butter in same large pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks and celery. Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add green onions, parsley, and garlic. Sauté until onions wilt, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add filé powder, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Stir 3 minutes. Add collard greens, mustard greens, watercress, spinach, and sugar.

They start out like this....

And end up like this :)

Toss to combine. Add 2 cups broth. Cover and cook until all greens are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
Working in batches of 2 cups, puree greens in processor, scraping down sides occasionally.

Or if you are fortunate enough to own an immersion blender (top 10 kitchen gadgets!) you can do like we do and dirty one less thing...

Transfer puree to bowl.

Heat butter in same pot over medium-high heat. Add flour; whisk until smooth. Cook until roux is peanut butter color, whisking often, about 7 minutes. Whisk in remaining 8 cups broth and bring to boil, whisking often. Add greens puree, then ham. Simmer gumbo 10 minutes to blend flavors. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly; chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)
Mound 1/4 cup warm rice in center of each bowl. Ladle gumbo around rice.

*A powder made from ground sassafras leaves; available in the spice section of some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.

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