While I was watching Pride and Joy, the compilation of interview vignettes collected by Joe York for the Southern Foodways Alliance, I was intrigued by the story of a woman who was preparing gumbo z'herbes. In the Creole Catholic tradition, this twist on traditional gumbo is made from a base of an uneven number of greens. The woman said she didn't know why there were an uneven number of greens used, she just knew that it was really bad luck to use an even number. Creoles had their rules, she said.
The Creole Catholic community would prepare the dish on Holy Thursday, the thursday before Good Friday. Many Catholics fast on Good Friday and would eat the vitamin and protein-laden meal to help them get through the day-long fast.
The following is my interpretation of this power packed soup.
So, if you need a solid last meal to get you through your fast or just looking for a new way to enjoy gumbo, I hope you enjoy it.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup bacon drippings
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 bunch turnip greens, finely chopped
1 bunch collard greens, finely chopped
1 bunch mustard greens, finely chopped
1 bunch spinach, finely chopped
1 bunch green kale, finely chopped
1 cup okra, cut
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 pound dungeness crab cluster, de-shelled
3 quarts vegetable broth
1 tablespoon white sugar
salt to taste
2 tablespoons hot pepper-based sauce, or to taste
2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning blend, or to taste
5 sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato sauce
4 tablespoons gumbo file powder
1. Make a roux by whisking the flour and 1 cup bacon drippings together in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it turns a rich mahogany brown color. This can take 20 to 30 minutes; watch heat carefully and whisk constantly or roux will burn.
2. Place the celery, onion, green bell pepper, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the vegetables are very finely chopped. Stir the vegetables into the roux. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.
3. Bring the broth to a boil in a large soup pot. Whisk the roux mixture into the boiling water. Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the sugar, salt, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, thyme, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Add the greens and stir until tender. Simmer the soup over low heat for 1 hour; mix in 2 tablespoons of file gumbo powder at the 45-minute mark.
4. Sautee sausage until brown. Add sausage to soup and continue to stir occasionally for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup of bacon drippings in a skillet, and cook the okra over medium heat for 15 minutes; remove okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo. Mix in crabmeat and simmer until flavors have blended, 60 more minutes. Just before serving, stir in 2 more tablespoons of file gumbo powder.
6. Serve over rice with a tear of baguette.