Gumbo z'herbes is the least common of the three traditional gumbos we eat in New Orleans, and it's nothing like the other two. For one thing, it doesn't usually contain a roux. In its most rigorously constituted form, there should be no meat or seafood in gumbo z'herbes. This is penitential gumbo for Lenten eating. However I add bacon and a ham hock for seasoning.
The name is a contraction of gumbo aux herbs--gumbo with greens. The more different greens it contains, the better the gumbo z'herbes. The tradition says that you must have an odd number of greens in there or risk bad luck. Whatever number of different greens you use will be the number of new friends you'll make before next Easter.
Besides the usual mustard, collard greens and turnip greens, some of the additional greens may include spinach, green onions, parsley, watercress, beet tops, carrot tops, radish tops, peppergrass, dandelion greens , green leaf lettuce (not iceberg) or cabbage.
More gumbo z'herbes is served during Holy Week than all the rest of the year combined. It was a family tradition that my Mère (grand-mother), Louise Egan (1883-1955) cooked gumbo z'herbes (without meat) on either Holy Thursday or Good Friday.
Gumbo Z'herbes (Green Gumbo)
- 8 strips bacon cut into one inch pieces
- 2 medium onions finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 bunch mustard greens
- 1 bunch collard greens
- 1 bunch turnip greens
- 2 small turnips, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups dry white wine
- water to cover
- 1 ham hock
- 2 teaspoons Frank’s Creole Seasoning (see below for recipe) or salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Wash the greens and drain well.
- Cut out the stems center ribs from the greens.
- Tear the greens into small pieces.
- In a black cast iron pot, sauté the bacon over medium heat until it is translucent and the bottom of the pot is coated with the rendered bacon fat.
- Sauté the onions and garlic until soft.
- Add the greens and the cubed turnip.
- Add the water and wine to cover.
- Add the ham hock and seasonings and bring pot to a boil over medium heat.
- Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until the greens are tender, about 2 hours.
- Serve greens hot with their cooking liquid or "pot likker”.
Franks Famous Creole Seasoning
This type of seasoning base is used in many New Orleans restaurants, from Emeril's to Commander's Palace to K-Paul's. This is particularly good on grilled chicken or duck.
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon crushed dried basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon crushed dried oregano leaves
- ½ teaspoon crushed dried thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon crushed dried parsley leaves
- ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves
Note: This version of Creole seasoning contains salt -- If you like to control salt content separately, omit the salt from the blend.
- In a medium bowl or food processor combine salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, white pepper, ground black pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic, crushed basil, crushed oregano, crushed thyme and parsley. Mix thoroughly.
- Use like salt. When it's salty enough, it's seasoned to perfection.
- Store in an airtight container for up to three months.
Note: The amounts in this recipe are given by volume. So a "teaspoon" can be a cup or a Tablespoon depending on how much seasoning you wish to make. Double or triple the recipe as you wish.