Serves 10 to 12
The instructions below are prosaic enough. I'd just like to adjust expectations here: The outcome of this recipe depends entirely upon the color of the roux that you make. If you're going for it, if you're really serious about it, you'll push through your fears and follow my instructions all the way. What that gets you is a gumbo that looks and sort of tastes like burnt mud-but the best damn burnt mud you've ever had. This distinct and transfixing flavor is the pride of an entire culture, an utterly unique culinary contribution from the Cajun foodway.
Several bird carcasses
3 stalks celery, chopped (save the trimmings for the stock)
2 onions, chopped (save the trimmings for the stock)
2 bay leaves
1 good-sized duck
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
1 pound okra, chopped
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Cooked white rice, for serving
Filé powder, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving
The night before, soak some hickory and apple wood chips for the smoker.
In the morning, drink a beer. Think about this: You're going to be at this all day long. Make a party of it. Plus, if you're going to all this trouble, you ought to double or triple the recipe and invite all your friends over. Plus, it freezes well.
Start a stock with the bird carcasses. (Perhaps saved from previous meals and frozen? Perhaps scavenged from neighboring diners' plates at restaurants? Never throw away a bird carcass without boiling it first.) Put them in your soup pot, along with the ends of the celery, the onion ends and peels, and the bay leaves. Just cover with water, bring to a simmer over high heat, cover, and turn the heat down low.
Meanwhile, quarter the duck and steam it for 30 minutes. While it's steaming, start up your smoker. If you don't have one or don't know how to operate yours, call for help.
Transfer the duck to the smoker. Boil off all the water from the pot in which you did the steaming, leaving only the fat that dripped down during the steaming process. You'll know that the last molecules of water are trying to escape when the fat makes a squealing sort of sound. Really. You now have a pot of duck fat. This is a good thing.
Now for the roux. Preferably, do this under a good hood fan or in someone else's house, otherwise your drapes will smell like duck fat for a few weeks. Trust me, this is all worth it; stick with the program. In a large, heavy, non-nonstick saucepan, heat 3/4 cup of the fat and the flour over medium heat and stir with a wooden or bamboo spatula. The carpal tunnel-inducing stirring part doesn't come until later. Roux darkens in stages, then plateaus when it reaches certain colors. You can walk away from the roux early on, but never for too long. You're attempting a controlled burn of the flour. Be very attentive and don't try to hurry it the first time you try this. Work your way through the peanut butter-colored phase with medium heat, then either turn the heat down or just stay right on it, mixing constantly. You'll soon get to a milk-chocolate color. Don't stop. This is the beginning of the big plateau. By now, you'll be ready to hang it up, but this is the crux of your entire day, so hang in there. You want to take this through milk chocolate, through semisweet, all the way to dark chocolate. Immediately remove from the heat and dump in the celery, onions, and peppers, and stir thoroughly.
Remove the duck from the smoker and pull off the meat, depositing the bones into the stockpot.
Take a break and allow the stock to simmer for at least 30 minutes longer.
Strain the stock into another large container, then transfer the roux and vegetables into your stockpot. Stir in the andouille, okra, tomato paste, thyme, basil, cayenne, the strained stock, and the duck meat. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Serve piping hot over white rice. Stir in a sprinkle of filé powder and a dash of hot sauce.
The Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups
Recipes and Reveries
by David Ansel
Ten Speed Press
$16.94 (CAN $23.95)
192 pages; Paperback
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created October 2005
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