Nouvelle Gumbo Z’Herbes

The past few years have seen a revival of this great old tradition, the “green gumbo” of Lent. It was almost dead, but now quite a few restaurants offer it. The traditional gumbo z’herbes includes a large number (but always an odd number) of greens, cooked down in a broth that, in its most stringent form, is nothing more than the water the greens and some savory vegetables were cooked in. Most cooks, however, use seafood or even seasoning meats in it. (The most famous local version, at Dooky Chase, has both beef brisket and sausage.)

My thinking with this recipe is that we can add a few more vegetables, to make a more elegant soup than usually goes under this name. My wife suggested I take it another step farther and add heavy cream, but I can’t bring myself to do that during Lent.

  • Stock:
  • 6 medium gumbo crabs, crushed
  • 1 small onion, cut up
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 12 brussels sprouts
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • Top five inches of a bunch of celery, cut into thin sticks, with leaves
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 5 green onions, sliced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1 cup dry white wine (preferably Chenin Blanc)
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 head broccoli, broken up, stems removed
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, bottom two inches cut off
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs. Tabasco jalapeno pepper sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. filé powder
  • 2 tsp. salt

1. Put the stock ingredients into a large saucepan with a gallon of water. Bring it to a boil, them lower the heat. Simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the broth and set aside.

2. Pick all the greens to eliminate yellow or bruised parts and thick stems. Wash all the greens very well in several changes of water until there’s no grit left.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the collards, mustard greens, and brussels sprouts, and cook for about 20 minutes, until they’re completely soft. Add the spinach, parsley, and celery. Cook another three minutes at most.

4. Drain the greens and reserve the water. Remove the brussels sprouts and chop coarsely.

5. Make a pale brown roux with the butter and the flour. Add the green onions, garlic and bell pepper; sauté until tender.

6. Add the wine and lemon juice. Bring the pot to a boil while whisking to dissolve the roux into the wine. Reduce and whisk until what’s left begins to resemble very runny mashed potatoes. Then whisk in the crab stock and bring to a simmer.

7. Cut the broccoli and the asparagus into small pieces and add to the soup. Add the chopped greens, brussels sprouts, Worcestershire and jalapeno sauce. Bring the pot to a light boil, and cook until the broccoli and asparagus are just tender. If the soup is too thick, add some of the reserved vegetable stock from cooking the greens.

8. Add the filé and salt to taste. Serve as is, or over rice if you like.

Serves eight to twelve.

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