Monday, March 1, 2010

gumbo z'herbes

Showcasing weak photography of saucy things in fluorescent light once again, I bring you the story of Maillard and the Green Gumbo.

Shrimp, andouille, and okra, alack! Not in gumbo z'herbes, a meatless variety full of a veritable bonanza of dark leafies. Thumbing through some recipes, I was a bit dubious how delicious a sink full of cooked down greens and some roux could possibly be. It seemed too simple to be, well, anything but green and bitter. Roux is pretty sweet.

By applying heat to flour in oil and an obsessive amount of stirring, amino acids and sugars participate in Maillard reactions, turning the mixture the color of peanut butter, and imbuing it with a complex, richly nutty flavor. This is the basis for the depth and savoriness of the dish, incredible enough that the seafood and sausage won't be missed.

Recipe authenticity is dubious at best, but it's good enough for Texas expat tastebuds in the land of happy cows.

Gumbo Z'herbes
Pretty much from Regan Burns

5 bunches greens - ie. collard greens, chicory, dandelion greens, mustard greens, spinach, parsley, beet tops, carrot tops, or turnip tops
3 cups water

2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced, green tops reserved for garnish
1 large green bell pepper, medium dice
4 stalks celery, medium dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbs Cajun seasoning (if you don't have it, try making it!)
2 whole cloves
3 allspice berries
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced marjoram leaves
Louisiana hot sauce (ie. Tobasco, Crystal's..)

Cook the greens:

Fill sink with cold water and submerge all greens. Leave undisturbed for about 5 minutes, then lift from the water and place in a colander. This lets the silt sink to the bottom, leaving your leafies clean. Repeat if needed.

Chop or tear greens into large pieces. Discard tough ribs of veggies. Place in a big pot. Add 3 cups water and place over medium-high heat. When it begins to simmer, cover with lid and reduce heat to medium low. Cook greens, occasionally turning with a pair of tongs, until they are very soft and wilted, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Strain greens, being sure to reserve the (beautiful dark green!) cooking liquid, approx. 3 1/2 cups. Allow greens to cool slightly, then chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Take about 1/2 of the chopped greens and purée in blender.

Make yo' gumbo:
In a large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat. When it is hot, slowly sprinkle in flour, whisking to prevent any lumps from forming. Reduce heat to medium low and cook roux, stirring constantly until it is peanut butter colored and emits a toasted aroma, about 10 to 20 minutes.

Stir in onion, scallions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Pot will then smell oddly like kung pao chicken. Season with salt pepper. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are
softened, about 5 minutes.

Add reserved green cooking liquid along with vegetable broth or water. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a simmer. Stir in salt, Cajun seasoning, cloves, allspice, and bay leaves and simmer, stirring often, until gumbo base is soupy and thick and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in chopped and puréed greens and marjoram; cover the pot and simmer 10 minutes. Add hot sauce to taste and serve over cooked white rice, garnished with thinly sliced scallion tops.

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