GISELE PEREZ (this piece was published in JANUARY 2013)
My brother likes to say that in the rest of the South, people eat “segregated greens,” but in a way that’s emblematic of New Orleans, we’ve thrown many different greens into the pot, and created our very own green gumbo, Gumbo z’Herbes, pronounced by New Orleanians as Gumbo Zaab.
And while the greens are the unifying factor, the rest of the ingredients vary from cook to cook. Traditionally, the greens were seasoned with pickled meat, an item that barely exists anymore, so salt pork or ham hocks are now substituted. Then often veal, beef or pork stew meat is added, along with smoked or country sausage. Don’t eat beef or pork? No problem, I’ve made it with smoked turkey legs, and it’s quite tasty. I even spoke with someone recently who added seasoned chicken breast meat to her gumbo z’Herbes, although that was a completely new one on me. Many even make a vegetarian version to dine on during Lent, while famously, Chef Leah Chase traditionally serves a heavy meat version on Holy Thursday, as it’s her family practice to fast throughout the day on Good Friday.
Whatever the version, Gumbo z’Herbes is a delicious addition to the lexicon of Creole cuisine.
- 2 bunches collard greens
- 2 bunches turnip greens (I look for turnip greens with the turnips still attached, and then add the turnips to the Gumbo)
- 2 bunches mustard greens
- 2 bunches spinach
- Tops of 2 bunches of beets
- About 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups smoked ham, chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds smoked sausage, sliced
- 3 cup onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3-4 tablespoons flour
- 1 large potato (optional)
- 2 turnips (optional)
- A very healthy pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- A few drops of hot sauce
1. Soak the greens in a sink full of water to remove any grit, then lift greens out of the water and into the pot to steam (I do this one set of greens at a time i.e. collards first, then mustard, then turnip etc.- rinse, steam, rinse, steam), until all the greens are wilted. Remove each set of greens to a large bowl along with the reserved liquid aka pot likker.
2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to the pot to heat, then add sausage to brown lightly. Remove to a bowl, then add the ham to brown slightly.
3. Add another tablespoons or two of oil if needed, then add onions cooking until softened.
4. Grind steamed greens and onions together in a food processor in several batches.
5. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to the pot to heat, then stir in 3-4 tablespoons, flour whisking continuously to make a blond roux.
6. Add the pureed greens and onions to the roux, then add the sausage and ham. Simmer on low heat for an hour or even two. (Hey, these dishes were made to be left on the stove while the women were cleaning, washing and ironing. Longer cooking just means more melding of flavors. That’s also why it’ll be even better the next day).
7. After about an hour, add the potato and turnip to the greens, adding a bit more water if needed.
8. Serve in a bowl over steamed white rice.