I've been making gumbo semi regularly for the last couple of years, using continually-evolving recipes based on info in this thread, with tweaks based on reading lots of cook books. I especially like some of the recipes in Besh's My New Orleans
, and Link's Real Cajun
Each batch is enjoyable, but I have to admit that they're partly a warm-up for one particular dinner. Each fall, I vacation with a group of friends that can range from 20-30 people, and we trade-off cooking duties, and gumbo works well for a crowd. Plus, the leftovers just get better and better.
Last year I had good luck making a big pot of duck and mushroom gumbo, and another of classic chicken and andouille. But they disappeared too quickly, so this year I upped the quantities, and made about 4-5 gallons of each.
I'm still getting my head around working with these large quantities, but it worked out pretty well this time (with only a couple of minor tragedies...) and I managed to document most of the process, so I figured I'd share.
Last year I mail-ordered andouille and tasso from Pochés, and was very happy with it, but I'd gotten an enthusiastic recommendation for Jacob's, so this year I tried them. I can't say that I strongly prefer one company's products over the other, I like them both.
I got 6 fresh ducks, 6 chickens, made a trip to Penzy's for spices, picked-up the requisite vegetables, and worked on it over the course of a couple of days. I had enough time to do some prep well ahead, and had many friends to aid in chopping, so I started early.
First, I roasted off the ducks and chickens, picked the meat, and made stock from the bones.
I actually had one big mishap - some friends had roasted a pig a few nights before I was scheduled to serve the gumbo, so I had the bright idea of popping the ducks into that big smoker after the pig came out.
Seemed like a good plan - but I hadn't anticipated that the ducks would put of so much fat so fast that it would overwhelm the drip pan, overflow into the coals, and ignite! By the time we noticed, and wrestled the rotisserie mechanism off of the smoker, the ducks were pretty much charcoal...
Amazingly, I was able to recover most of the breast meat from these 4 ducks, it tasted just fine, but the legs were too far gone, and the carcasses were no good for stock. Thankfully I still had a couple more ducks that I roasted conventionally in the oven, and got a decent amount of meat from them, and stock from those bones (with a couple of chickens thrown in) and a good supply of duck fat, so I was able to continue on my plan. I also made pork stock from the pig roast bones, so between 6 chickens, 2 ducks and leftovers from a 75 pound pig, I had plenty of meat, and lots of bones for stock.
Skimmed, de-fatted, chilled the stock, had it ready for the next day.
The next day, I chopped about 20 onions, 10 bell peppers and several bunches of celery. Then sliced up the Andouille and Tasso. Browned about half of the sausage, left the rest as-is.
I also got some slab bacon from Jacob's, and added that to the duck gumbo, to add the smokiness that I did NOT get from cooking the ducks in the smoker...
Made my spice mix: Three kinds of paprika (sweet, hot, and smoked) cayenne, a couple of kinds of freshly ground chili powders, black and white pepper, garlic powder, toasted onion powder.
Got that all organized, and ready to go, and got the stock simmering, before starting the roux.
I saved the fat from the ducks I roasted in the oven, and used that as a base for the roux. That was a very fine smelling roux, if I do say so myself!
It got much darker than this, but there was no opportunity to take pictures at that point, it was pretty frantic. As the roux got very dark, I dumped-in the onions. That's something I picked-up from the Besh cookbook: to do the onions first, before adding the peppers and celery. I think I'm going to keep doing that, I feel like the onions got better caramelized on their own.
I split the roux out into two pots, added the rest of the vegetables and the spice mix, sautéed them for a while. I then added that roux-spice-vegetable mix to the stocks (one pot of duck/chicken stock, one of chicken/pork stock.) Added the tasso and a little bit of chopped andouille.
Added bay leaves to each, a bunch of thyme to the duck gumbo, and let them simmer for a few hours. Skimmed fat. Then a couple of hours before service, I added the picked chicken and duck, and the andouille. Continued simmering, skimming fat, and then shortly before service, added salt to taste, and adjusted the spice a bit.
Cooked rice, served it, and then sat down for the first time in about 8 hours, and had an Abita.
In all the chaos of serving, I failed to get any pictures of the finished product, but it turned out well. I think I'll follow this basic procedure, except for being a little more careful when smoking ducks...
Lessons learned: Jacob's Andouille is tasty. It's good to have help chopping. Roux is $*&%##ing hot, especially when it spatters on your hand. Ducks output a lot of fat. Good gumbo is worth the trouble.
Edited by philadining, 06 October 2010 - 11:55 PM.