By Scott Leysath
After a cold morning in the marsh, nothing is better than a bowl of duck gumbo
In some parts of the country, the quickest way to stir up debate among duck hunters has nothing to do with duck hunting. It’s gumbo. The debate arises when you ask a group of waterfowlers, “What’s the best recipe for duck gumbo?” Chances are good that you’ll get about as many different answers as there are people in the room.
Slow-cooked and full of flavor, a hot pot of duck gumbo is hard to beat after a long morning of slogging through the marsh. Starting with the roux, which to me is the most critical part of the dish, the flavors are layered over hours of low-heat cooking. There are those who maintain that a proper gumbo takes two to three days to prepare. My own recipe takes a few hours, but it’s usually better the next day if, by chance, any is left over. If you have the time or inclination, make your own stock with slow-cooked ducks, onions, peppers, and garlic covered with water. Once done, pull the cooked duck meat off the carcasses and reserve the stock for gumbo. This is too much trouble for most folks, but it makes for better gumbo.
Credit for gumbo goes to Louisiana, where the earliest references appeared in Cajun cookbooks toward the end of the 19th century. Although the word “gumbo” is derived from the vegetable okra, a natural thickener, many recipes, including this one, do not include this slimy vegetable. Some Cajun chefs insist that only one thickening agent is to be used—roux, filé powder, or okra. Others allow for a combination of roux and one of the other thickeners. Only a handful use all three in a given recipe. One thing is certain, there is no shortage of opinions on how to make this unique and tasty dish. Now, who knows the best recipe for gumbo?
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 1/2-3 hours
- 1/2 cup peanut oil
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cups bell pepper, any color, seeded and diced
- 1 pound Andouille sausage (or your favorite smoked sausage), diced
- 3 cups boneless, skinless duck breast fillets, each cut into 3 or 4 pieces
- 3 quarts chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon filé powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
- 6–8 cups cooked warm white rice
1. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, combine peanut oil and flour to make the roux. Cook while stirring constantly until roux is mahogany in color. Remove from heat and stir in onions and peppers (this will help cool the roux).
2. In a large, heavy stockpot over medium heat, cook sausage until browned. Add duck and cook until browned. Add chicken broth, filé powder, paprika, salt, and garlic. Stir in roux mixture thoroughly and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until duck is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
3. Once duck is tender, stir in shrimp, thyme, and parsley. Cook until shrimp is pink, about 4 to 6 minutes more. Mound about 3/4 cup rice in bowls and ladle gumbo over.