If gumbo has a season, it is now, when pots of savory goodness are simmering all over the state. Seafood gumbo and chicken gumbo are the two types that come first to mind, and there are infinite variations of both, but untold numbers of other gumbos lie outside those categories. This month I’m giving recipes for three of them.

Turkey gumbo usually shows up after Thanksgiving or Christmas when cooks utilize the remains of the holiday bird. Smoked sausage or oysters (or both) often go into the pot, resulting in a rich and savory concoction. But it’s not necessary to roast a whole turkey for a gumbo. Turkey drumsticks, wings, and necks, which are available in most supermarkets, work very well.

I’m not sure where I saw mention of a field pea gumbo, and I’ve never seen a recipe for one, but as a lover of that legume, I recently developed a recipe for  an okra, andouille and field pea gumbo. I like the result, and I hope that you will also.

Perhaps the most unusual of all Louisiana gumbos is Gumbo z’Herbes, which is made from a variety of greens. Early Louisiana cookbooks call it Gumbo D’Herbes, Gumbo Aux Herbes, and Green or Herb Gumbo, although Lafcadio Hearn’s book of Creole proverbs published in 1885 was titled Gombo Zhebes. [Note: Curious spelling is correct!] Somewhere along the way, the gumbo acquired its current name. According to the New Orleans City Guide published in 1938, “There is a legend that this gumbo should be cooked on Holy Thursday for good luck. Upon passing the French Market on this day, you will hear the vendors crying, ‘Buy your seven greens for good luck!’”

The idea of making a gumbo with a variety of greens might seem odd to an outsider, but anyone from Texas to Virginia knows how important greens are in the southern diet. This time of year supermarkets and farmers’ markets are overflowing with a variety of greens, and I doubt there’s a home garden in Louisiana that isn’t planted with mustard, turnip, or collard greens. Gumbo z’Herbes may not be eaten much in north Louisiana, but greens cooked with salt pork or ham hocks certainly are, and a green gumbo is only a few steps away from smothered greens.

The late Elmore Leonard certainly understood our love affair with greens. In one his novels he has two hit men from New Iberia hanging around Detroit while awaiting their final instructions. The guys are homesick for Louisiana food, which they can’t find in local restaurants. You might reasonably think that they were pining for gumbo or boudin or etouffée, but, no, it was something else they craved. It was a plate of greens. 

Gumbo z’Herbes

If you’re superstitious, choose seven greens, such as collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, cabbage leaves, watercress, parsley, carrot tops, radish tops, arugula, kale, celery leaves, green onion tops, book choy.

2 smoked pork hocks
8 cups water
¼ cup dry roux
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch collard greens
1 bunch mustard greens
1 bunch turnip greens
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch kale
1 head bok choy
1 bunch green onion tops
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups cubed ham
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce

In a large pot, add smoked pork hocks and water. Cover pot and boil for 60 minutes. Meanwhile, remove stems and large ribs from greens, chop roughly, and wash thoroughly.

After the hocks have boiled for an hour, whisk dry roux with 1 cup cold water and add to pot. Add onion, garlic, and all greens. Stir greens until they’re wilted. Bring pot to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 60 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook ham in oil, stirring frequently, until nicely browned. Set aside.

Remove pork hocks from pot. When cool enough to handle, separate meat from bones and rind and chop meat. Add to cooked ham. Working in batches, puree greens in a food processor. Return greens to pot, add ham and chopped meat, and season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes. Serve with steamed rice and hot pepper vinegar.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Turkey & Sausage Filé Gumbo

2 turkey wings
2 turkey drumsticks
¼ cup melted butter
Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
1½ pounds smoked turkey necks
6 tablespoons prepared dark roux
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
Hot sauce to taste
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped green onion tops
Filé to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Separate the three sections of each wing by working a knife through each joint. Place wing sections and drumsticks in a roasting pan and brush with melted butter. Season generously with Cajun/Creole seasoning. Roast, turning and basting occasionally, until nicely browned, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, place smoked sausage on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until browned, about 15 minutes.

Transfer turkey wings and drumsticks to a large pot. Pour off fat from roasting pan and deglaze with a little water, scraping up the browned bits from the pan with a large spoon or spatula; add to pot. Add smoked turkey necks to pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until drumsticks are tender, about 60-90 minutes.

Remove turkey wings, drumsticks and necks from pot. Add roux to pot and whisk to combine. Add sausage, onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and bay leaves to pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer. When turkey is cool enough to handle, remove all meat from bones and skin and cut into bite-size pieces. Return turkey to pot and simmer for 30 minutes, adding additional water, if necessary. Skim fat from surface, season with Cajun/Creole seasoning and hot sauce. Add chopped parsley and green onion tops. Serve with steamed rice, hot sauce, and filé.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Okra, Andouille & Field Pea Gumbo

1 gallon (16 cups) water
2 tablespoons dry roux
½ pound andouille, sliced
1 smoked pork hock
2 bay leaves
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 pound okra, trimmed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound field peas, picked-over and washed
Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste
Hot sauce to taste
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped green onion tops

In a large pot, add water and roux and whisk to combine. Add andouille, pork hock, and bay leaves, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet on medium heat, add olive oil, onion, bell pepper, celery, okra, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add contents of skillet to large pot, along with field peas. Cover and simmer until peas are tender, about 45 minutes, adding additional water, if necessary. Season with Cajun/Creole seasoning and hot sauce. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with chopped parsley and green onion tops.

Makes 6-8 servings.