Gumbo Two Ways, May Daring Cooks

Aww yeah, we gonna get our gumbo on this month.

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

I have loved gumbo ever since being introduced to it almost 20 years ago. You might not associate gumbo with Alaska but it fits right in up here. Wild game and and an abundance of amazing seafood are two key reasons Alaskans are so connected to those down on the Gulf.

When the challenge first posted I wanted to do something unique but still true to the spirit of such a great dish. It just so happens that my ‘Uncle Carl’, who we lovingly refer to as El Poacho, had sent up several batches of teal ducks that he had come across. So the plan developed from there. I was going to make a wild smoked duck and andouillie gumbo.

I soaked two ducks in orange juice for about 3 days. This helped get rid of some of the strong wild taste and blood.  These ducks have a strong mineral flavor that needs some mellowing and the marinading was the perfect solution. I then rinsed, dried, and rubbed with a dry rub of spices consisting of traditional creole seasonings; thyme, hot paprika, cayenne, salt, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper.

Everything was set up on my new rotisserie attachement for the Weber propane grill with a smoking hot pan of apple wood chips.

I let these go for about 90 minutes at between 275F-300F. Even though wild ducks are much leaner than domestic, no basting was neccessary.

These were taken inside and allowed to cool before all the meat was picked from the carcass.

While those were cooking, I got to work drinking. Oh wait, I mean I got to work on the roux. I dug in to my secret stash of duck fat for this one.

If you have never used duck fat for cooking, you are missing out. So with a beer in one hand and a whisk in the other, I got to stirring in the flour to color the roux.

This was taken off the heat and allowed to slowly cool down. Don’t stop stirring while it is cooling though. As the cast iron retains heat for quite some time, you have to continue stirring until the pot is cool. This also keeps your roux from separating.

It was now getting late and so the last thing I did was get my stock together. The smoked carcasses, a smoked chicken carcass, and a bunch of chicken wing tips I had been saving went into the stock pot. Along with the bird parts went carrots, onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and lots of peppercorns. This was set on the stove over very low heat and allowed to go overnight.

I sleep like a baby any time I have stock on the stove overnight. So now on day two, I cool, filter, and defat the smoked duck stock. Then I pull together the mis en place.

This consisted of onion, celery, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, andouillie sausage, ham, picked smoked duck, duck fat roux, fresh herbs, spices, and frozen okre.

My order of operations here differs from most recipes. I start by browning up the sausage and ham in some olive oil. This gets pulled out and in goes the onion. Then I put in the peppers and celery with the onion and allow everything to get some color. Then finally the garlic and the roux are tossed in. I do this because I don’t like the roux sticking to the pot and burning. I then pour in a bunch of stock, probably about 2 quarts and then all the meat, bay leaves, picked thyme, hot paprika, tabasco, worcesteshire, cayenne, salt, and pepper. I like some heat and spice to my gumbo especially with so many strong flavors, BUT, don’t overdo it. You want the heat to compliment your dish, not overpower it.

I let this simmer on the stove for about an hour and then tossed in the okre. Then another 20-25 minutes at a low simmer to let thicken.

I serve simply with some plain old white rice. Put on some green onion for color and some hot sauce if you like. Smoked teal gumbo, DONE!

Delicious fo sho.

I finished the above about halfway through the month. Then went on an epic camping trip to Seldovia. This is a small fishing community only reachable by boat or airplane. We camped just off the beach and I even took a dip in the freezing ass ocean. Great times for sure.

Upon re-entry, I realized it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t do an Alaskan seafood gumbo for the challenge. I mean really.

So I started thinking about what I was going to use. Crab would be too obvious and I was looking for something even more special. So I hit the best fish market in town and ended up grabbing some rockfish and spot prawns. Both were harvested probably less than 200 miles from my house.

So again I got started on some stock. This time it was the shrimp shells and fish carcasses along with carrot, celery, onion, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, garlic, lemon slices, and peppercorns. I first added a dry white wine and allowed it to reduce by about half. Then everything was covered by about an inch of cold water. This was brought to a low simmer and allowed to cook for about 45 minutes.

Isn’t that a pretty pot? It gave off an amazing stock too.

So another roux, more mis en place, and everything but the fish and shrimp went into the pot. This time I only added one link of andouillie, and only one jalapeno so as not to overpower the more mild seafood flavors.

I did have one little trick left up my sleeve to put this over the top. Buried in the bottom of my freezer was a very special vaccuum sealed package. Nothing but halibut cheeks. Almost 2 lbs. of the things. Some of them as big as my palm (those were from some very large halibut). I seasoned these simply with some salt, pepper, and the same seasoning mix used on the ducks from above. They were then hard seared for just about a minute on either side in a cast iron skillet with some butter and olive oil.

It all came together pretty quick. The shrimp and rockfish pieces were tossed in at the very end. This time I did use some of the fish stock to make the rice. It helped carry that beautiful fresh seafood flavor through the whole dish.

Served with the seared cheeks on top.

I will be eating more of this while reading everyone elses posts. Thanks again Denise. What a great challenge.

Be sure to check out the other Daring Cook’s take on this challenge. Blogroll

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~ by climbhighak on May 14, 2011.

20 Responses to “Gumbo Two Ways, May Daring Cooks”

  1. Both gumbos look amazing – and I agree, anyone who hasn’t cooked with duck fat is totally missing out :)

  2. You are my hero – I was sooo exhausted by one gumbo that I don’t think I’ll ever attempt it again, so much stirring over the hot pot… And you made 2 versions in one months! And with such wonderful ingredients – I LOVE duck, I totally wish I could try a spoon of your recipe :-). The photos are so beautiful (and that photo of the fire too).

  3. I shouldn’t have come to see what you did with the gumbo. I am now drooling and tempted by how delicious both of these look. Great job AND beautiful scenery. I spent a month in Alaska in Denali back country camping and climbing and north towards Prudhoe Bay being run off the gravel road by pipeline trucks. Loved everything about it. Thanks for the memories and the great gumbo!

  4. Now I am thinking I need to smoke some ducks and have another try at this! Looks great.

  5. Seriously, guy, your stuff always looks amazing!! Both dishes are making me HUNGRY!!

  6. I am always amazed by your enthusiasm, your creativity, and your willingness to go for it. Even as someone with a Kosher/vegetarian household, your slow-smoked duck and super-fresh seafoods just shout amazingness. Great work on this challenge, as usual. Thank you for sharing your hard work and fun take on this one!

  7. Robert I LOVE them both and thank you for the information about using orange juice to mellow the ducks. The seafood version is stunning and I’m envious with all the great wild food that you get where you live. And that trips sounds so delightful. Exquisite work as always and thank you for your kind words on my blog.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  8. I really loved your pictures when I saw them on the forum..so appetizing..I really wish I could find duck here or duck fat..I am sure it would make a world of difference..
    You did a wonderful job Robert as always..it is truly a pleasure to view your creations

  9. Oh my… these look like the best gumbos ever! Coincidentally, I mean, accidentally, I also made smoked duck and Andouille gumbo, but not even close to your masterpiece. Bravo to you!

  10. Great job on your gumbo, it looks absolutely delicious, especially the prawns. I don’t get much good seafood here in Manchester and I did not want to insult the gumbo by using sub-standard seafood. Well done! :)

  11. You have completely outdone yourself! Two incredible gumbos with such creativity. Well done!

  12. OMG, your photos are impressive. I can almost hear the the sizzle and pop of the duck, smell the wood smoke and taste that awesome gumbo. Bravo.

  13. Robert – Thank you so much for your glorious gumbos and such an outstanding post! My mouth is watering as I look at that duck on the rotisserie and those halibut cheeks searing in the pan. I knew you would come through with flying colors on this challenge. I really enjoy cooking with you in this group.

  14. One second…I have to dry the drool off the keyboard! That smoked duck was beautiful. I could smell it from here. Very, very well done on your gumbo. I loved the contrast of the mound of rice in the middle as well.

  15. I love your entries because the step by step photos are always perfection, and the final dish is always jaw dropping and hunger inducing. It was your first gumbo that inspired me to place my cheese grit cake in the center and surround it with lots of chunky goodness. Your roux looks amazing too..great photo. I actually was going for a lighter roux, but sort of lost track as I zoned while whisking. No big deal..as the flavor really intensifies just before ‘burnt’ :) Glad you seared your halibut. Unless a recipe is specifically for poached fish, no need to poach it – caramelization is where it’s at, baby!

  16. Wow those are gorgeous looking versions of gumbo! Excellent job!

  17. So impressive as usual. All your picture are stunning. You really did every step, including beautiful broths. Great tip about marinating the duck in orange juice for 3 days! And the seafood one with the halibut cheeks! Can I come over for dinner? I’ll bring some beer!

  18. Fantastic job, as always!! The tip about marinating the duck is great, I’ll have to try that sometime! Both of your gumbos look great. And that is one fantastically seasoned cast iron you got there! :)

  19. This looks awesome!

    I love the photos, Alaska is definitely on my list of go-to places!

    Definitely following your blog closely now, your work is fab!

    -BBC

  20. Oh my gosh, those both look delicious! I am always so in awe of what you make! Yum!

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