Wednesday, December 31, 2008

World Class New Year's Dining

Happy New Year!

My grandmother (we called her "Nana") taught me how to be a civilized human being.

My failures in actually being a civilized human being are my own fault, not hers.

Anyway, every New Year's Day, she would make Gumbo Z'herbes, as a way to put a New Orleans spin on the tradition of eating greens (e.g. cabbage) on New Year's Day.  This is a lot more work than cooking some cabbage within an inch of its life, but it's worth it.

Gumbo Z’Herbes

 6 or 8 bunches fresh spinach or 6 or 8 packs frozen (or some of each)

1 bunch of mustard greens

1 bunch of collard greens

1 bunch of turnip greens

Greens from 1 bunch of carrots (Tops)

Greens from 1 bunch of beets (Tops)

Outer leaves of lettuce – use romaine or endive or other

Outer leaves of cabbage

Leaves from top of celery

Leaves from top of radishes

Leaves from 1 bunch of broccoli

1 lb. of fresh hot sausage

1 lb. of ham seasoning or smoked sausage

2 or 3 big onions -- chopped

1 or 2 sweet peppers -- chopped

2 or 3 bay leaves

A few tablespoons flour

Gumbo file

Salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste

Cooked rice

 1.         Wash the greens thoroughly.  Take out the stems or tough midribs.  Put the greens in a big pot with water to cover and bring to boil.  When it boils, turn fire down to medium and let cook for about 15 or 20 minutes – uncovered.

 2.         While the greens are simmering, cook the hot sausage (in small bite-size chunks) and diced ham or smoked sausage in a large heavy skillet.  When cooked, remove the meat with a spoon, and put the meat on a plate.  Drain off some of the grease from the pan, then add the onions and peppers.  Cook until the onions and peppers are soft.

 3.         After the greens have cooked down, use a strainer to drain them, but retain the water (the stock) that the greens have been cooking in.  Add the greens back to the large pot, and stir in the cooked onions, peppers, meat, bay leaves, and seasonings.  Get the mixture nice and hot.

 4.         Add in stock until the texture is gumbo-like. Simmer for at least an hour.  If the gumbo gets too thick, add in some more of the stock.  To get the consistency that you like, mix some flour with water in a separate bowl, then add some of this paste to the gumbo.  You can also add gumbo file to get the desired texture.  As the gumbo cooks with the flour, you may want to add salt, pepper, or hot sauce.  Be careful; the hot sausage will also add plenty of spice as well.

 5.         Serve in large soup bowls over rice.

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