Citizens, I am proud to offer you my personal version of this rarely-sampled classic New Orleans recipe!
When Catholics were expected to abstain from eating meat during Lent, a meatless variety of gumbo, known as gumbo z’herbes (literally “gumbo with herbs”), was often served. This variety combined a large number of greens – typically including turnips, mustard greens, and spinach.
The greens were cooked to mush and strained through a sieve to produce a thick green liquid.
Preparation for this variety of gumbo was time-consuming, and as Lenten restrictions have relaxed, the dish has become less popular.
It is very rarely served in restaurants. In modern times, ham or crabmeat is often added to this type of gumbo.
This is a traditional Holy Thursday meal for Creole families in New Orleans. The Nine Greens represent the Nine Churches visited on Good Friday in remembrance of Jesus’ walk to be crucified.”
Gumbo z’herbes may have originated with the French, Germans, or West Africans. It has similarities to the French dish potage aux herbes (“soup with herbs”), as well as to the African callaloo.
The meatless dish also bears striking resemblance to a dish often eaten in Germany on Maundy Thursday. German Catholics, obeying the Lenten rules, often served a stew made of seven different greens on this date.
This gumbo is delicious and is actually better the day after it’s made and it goes very well with cornbread.
With the relaxation of Lenten rules, most gumbo z’herbes made today has a lot of meat in it, much like regular gumbos. For a vegetarian version, just leave out the meat, use water or vegetable stock and vegetable oil in place of sausage fat. My meat-laden version is one that I am very confident you will enjoy, Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 9 types of Greens (ideal) but use at least five of these: 1 bunch each: collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens (bottom parts only), green onions, parsley (TFD prefers Chervil for its delicate taste of anise), watercress, spinach, small head of green cabbage, carrot tops
- 2 medium onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
- 8 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1 ½ gallons chicken stock (preferred) or bottled water
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 1 pound kielbasa
- 1 pound Virginia ham in 1 piece
- 1 pound lean veal
- 1 pound hot sausage, chaurice is ideal
- 1 large ham bone (optional but recommended)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
- 4 whole bay leaves
- 12 whole allspice
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 teaspoons file powder
- Boiled rice, for serving
- Clean greens under cold running water, making sure to pick out bad leaves and rinse away any grit. Chop greens coarsely and place in a 12-quart stockpot with the onions and garlic.
- Cover with stock or water, bring mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Strain greens, onion and garlic and reserve liquid.
- Cut all meats, except the chaurice, into bite-size pieces and place in a 12 quart stockpot with 2 cups of the reserved liquid. Steam over high heat for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile cut the chaurice into bite-size pieces and place in a skillet over high heat to render, about 10 minutes. Remove chaurice, keeping the grease in the skillet and set aside.
- Blend greens in a food processor until pureed.
- Grind the whole spices to a powder.
- Heat the skillet of chaurice grease over a high heat and add flour. Cook roux, stirring constantly until flour is cooked, about 5 minutes (should be the color of peanut butter). Pour roux over meat mixture and stir to combine.
- Add pureed greens to the meat in the stockpot and 2 quarts of the reserved liquid. Let simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes. Add chaurice, ham bone, bay leaves and the ground spices, stir well.
- Simmer for 40 minutes. Stir in file powder and remove from heat.
- Serve over steamed rice.
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