For the past half dozen years or so I've had a few friends over at some point around the end of duck season for a pot of gumbo and another of red beans. This is one of my favorite social events, as it is perfect for a lazy host. I open a couple of bottles of wine, chill some beer and soda, then have the pot of gumbo and the pot of red beans, along with another of rice, ready to go. A few sliced baguettes and some good butter and dinner is done. Guests are directed to fill their own glasses and bowls, sit where they please, eat what they please, drink what they please, and the host does the same.
The gumbo for this event is based upon ducks and comes from The Plantation Cookbook. You start the day before by simmering three large or five small (wild) ducks with various aromats to make the stock. This doesn't look like much, but the stock pot holds 20 quarts:
Further evidence that this is a meal for the lazy host- the recipe specifies skinned ducks. No tedious plucking! No singeing!
The next day, after the stock has cooled, you skim off the fat, strain, remove the veggies, then bone the ducks and return the meat to the stock and heat it up gently.
Meanwhile, you chop lots of veggies- first the holy trinity of onion, celery, and bell pepper, then about half a head of garlic and a bunch of parsley.
Next, you make a roux.
Get it nice and dark, about the color of an old penny.
Next, add the veggies, along with a healthy shot of cayenne and black pepper (the small dish on the side of the veggie picture).
Cook and stir until it gets glossy and very dark, a little darker than this:
You stir the roux into the simmering stock by the spoonful, then set it to just simmer. Next, okra, only available frozen at this time of year.
Saute the okra until the ropiness is gone, then add it to the gumbo and do something else for the next few hours, stirring every so often.
Check the seasoning. Once your guests have arrived, bump up the heat so that the gumbo is simmering pretty well. Add shrimp (frozen again) and then oysters.
I go for fresh oysters, I think they make a difference in the flavor of the gumbo. This year, all I could find some thousand miles from saltwater were oysters still in the shell. Even then I ended up with a dozen Alabama and a dozen Pacific oysters.
The Alabama oysters are the big tan ones up on top.
The Chessie was very interested in the shucking process. He sat facing me as near as he could get and drooled uncontrollably. Somewhere in that dog's past I think he had an oyster or two. Unfortunately for him, these were reserved for company. Heck, I didn't even try one myself.
Regionally speaking, this gumbo ought to be enjoyed along the Gulf Coast somewhere, but it is awfully nice to be able to indulge in some of those flavors here in the high desert. The ducks were collected locally and it seems only courtesy to the birds to honor them by making them the base of a favorite and seldom indulged extravagance.