It’s Mardi Gras! And if you can’t celebrate in the Crescent City, you might as well eat like a Cajun at home. Buttery barbecued shrimp, decadent eggs benedict, beignets, muffulettas, and bread pudding all rank high on my list of favorite New Orleans delicacies, but a good gumbo takes the baby in the King’s cake.
When it comes to gumbo, no one makes it better than my mother-in-law. From dove to duck, she makes a mean gumbo. The secrets in the roux. I’m not sure how she does it, but she gets it dark. Real dark. Bits of meat and the holy trinity of Cajun cooking (green pepper, onion, and garlic) swim in a murky broth reminiscent of a Louisiana swamp. A few shakes of Tabasco at the table and you’ll be scraping the bottom of the bowl and headed to the kitchen for seconds (or thirds) in no time. This is seriously good food.
And I must be crazy to even think of recreating it at home. But Charlotte, NC is far, far away from Galveston, TX. And it’s Mardi Gras. And I had a craving for a bowl of spicy duck gumbo.
Fortunately my mother-in-law shared her recipe with me a couple years ago and I used it to create this version of the dish (I figured it was safer to alter the original recipe for fear of serious disappointment if I tried to recreate her dish exactly). The finished product is far from my mother-in-law’s gumbo, but it’s pretty darn good if I do say so myself.
Since it’s Mardi Gras and excess is encouraged, we skipped steamed white rice and served this gumbo over dirty rice. Chopped chicken livers, celery, red pepper, and onion are sautéed, seasoned, and then tossed with white rice for a Cajun favorite that literally dances in your mouth. As they’d say in New Orleans, laissez les bons temps rouler!
Spicy Duck Gumbo – Printer Friendly Recipe
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil, divided
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
6 green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups boiling water
2 cups boiling chicken broth
1 teaspoon hot sauce (like Tabasco)
Ground red pepper “cayenne,” to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (4-6 lb) whole duck, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 lb andouille sausage, thinly sliced (we used venison sausage that my parents had given us in place of the andouille and it was superb!)
Serve over: Dirty Rice (recipe follows) or steamed white rice
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Stir in the flour to create a roux and continue stirring until the roux is dark brown in color, about 20-25 minutes. Watch the heat carefully as a burnt roux will impart a bad taste to the dish.
When the roux is dark brown in color, carefully add the bell pepper, yellow onion, and the white part of the green onions. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until just fragrant. Carefully add the boiling water and chicken broth and stir to combine. Add the Tabasco sauce, cayenne, and salt and return the gumbo to a gentle simmer.
While the gumbo is simmering, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the duck pieces dry with a paper towel and season them generously with salt and pepper. Add the duck pieces to the skillet, skin side down, and cook for about 10 minutes on each side until golden brown. Carefully remove the duck pieces from the skillet and place them in the gumbo.
Return the gumbo to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the duck pieces from the gumbo and let cool. Shred the duck meat with a fork, discarding the skin. Return the meat to the gumbo and stir in the green parts of the green onions and the Andouille sausage. Cook for an additional 10 minutes then adjust the seasonings as needed. Serve over cooked white rice.
Dirty Rice – Printer Friendly Recipe
1 cup white long grain rice
2 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
½ cup chopped chicken livers
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
½ cup less-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, minced
In a small saucepan, combine the rice and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Stir, cover, and then reduce the heat to low. Cook the rice for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
In a 12-inch skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chicken livers and cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Add the bell pepper, celery, and onion and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and Creole seasoning and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Carefully add the chicken broth to the vegetable mixture then stir in the cooked rice. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings as needed then stir in the parsley. Serve immediately.