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Guar-ron-teed to be an excellent gumbo to anyone's taste. I generally start with a carcass of duck, goose, chicken, or Cornish game hens. That is, I use what is left over from a dinner of roast bird for two. Other essentials are Boudin sausage and okra. Venison sausage is also good, and you'll want some combination of seafood: shrimp, crawfish, and/or oysters.

MAKE A STOCK. You might want to remove the skin off the back. Boil the whole carcass (plus the neck, if you saved it) in a big pot with water to cover for at least an hour, stirring occasionally to separate the bones from the meat. When the bones are clean, fish them out with a slotted spoon. Stir through to remove anything you wouldn't want to find in a soup.


Add the following:
Onion (finely chopped)
Green pepper (chopped)
Celery (optional, chopped)
2 Bay leaves
tsp. salt
Black pepper
Crushed red pepper
2 Tobasco peppers (if you have them)
2 links Boudin sausage, cut into 2-3 in. pieces

Also add about a combined total of a tablespoon of your choice of the following dried spices: oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, dill, parsley, thyme. Boil for another 30-45 minutes. The Boudin will mysteriously disappear at some point.

MAKE A ROUX. Make a dark roux in another pan (a small iron skillet is a good choice) by heating about ¼ cup peanut oil and stirring in about an equal amount of flour (3-4 tablespoons). Heat and stir continuously with a whisk until the flour begins to cook and brown. Keep going as long as you dare – but don't burn it! Roux can be anywhere from light brown to very dark, almost black. The darker the better, but like toast, it is not as good when it burns. So this is a little like playing chicken.

I once had a chef who used to like to make the roux in a big pan and add the gumbo to it hot, which is essentially a matter of adding liquid to hot oil. He called this “food explosion,” an exciting technique which I do not practice in my own kitchen. George Shanks always made up large batches of roux, cooled to room temperature, and dipped out what he needed when he wanted to. He was making gumbo all the time, as it was on the menu at our restaurant and a lot of people liked it. I make gumbo infrequently, so I make up only enough roux for one pot (about ¼ cup). I dip out a cup or so of soup while the roux is still hot enough to dissolve readily. This makes not an explosion, but a minor poof. When stirred smooth, the thickened soup-roux mixture is returned to the gumbo.

Correct the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and gumbo file (which is ground sassafras root) to taste. The gumbo base will now hold as long as you like hot on the stove. At this point, you can set aside what you will not eat right away, before adding the okra and seafood. Gumbo keeps well in the refrigerator for several days, or longer in the freezer, and it is very good when reheated. The quantity described here would be twice what the two of us eat at a sitting. The leftover gumbo can be served plain as a soup or you can add fresh okra and seafood to make another main course.

You will need about another ten minutes when you are ready to serve. Add the okra and cook about five minutes. The okra should be bright green and tender, not dark green. Cook as long as you like before adding the okra, but not after. Okra tends to be seasonal, so you may have to use frozen okra if that was the Christmas goose you started with. Add the seafood and cook a few more minutes. I leave the tails on shrimp. If the oysters are good enough to eat raw, just put them in the soup bowls and ladle the boiling hot gumbo on top.


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