New Year, new recipes – Let’s start things right

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2011

Today is the beginning of a New Year – full of promise and probably some disappointments along the way.

I wanted to report that my Christmas dinner was just wonderful, or everyone said so. I enjoyed doing all the recipes, and they all turned out so well. Maybe a good dinner to repeat for next Christmas, but then there is always something new to try.

I know we all think of black-eyed peas and greens for New Year. I found a great recipe that combines all the above in one big gumbo. It is from Chef Donald Link of Herbsaint and Cochon, two very good restaurants in New Orleans. The weather is just right for gumbo, and with the additions of black-eyed peas and greens, you are ready to start the New Year off right.

Shredded Pork Gumbo with Black-eyed Peas

Makes 6 servings

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon grease, in all

2 cups finely diced yellow onion

1 cup finely diced green pepper

½ cup finely diced celery

(We talked about the Holy Trinity of desserts on Christmas. Onion, bell pepper and celery is the Holy Trinity of vegetables.)

3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

1 ½ gallons pork or chicken stock, unsalted and preferably fresh

4 pieces bacon

2 cups cooked collard greens or mustard greens

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Louisiana hot sauce, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 ½ pounds fresh okra, sliced crosswise into ½ inch pieces (Last year, I froze extra okra just for these winter gumbos.)

1 cup cooked black-eyed peas, or 2 (15-1/2-ounce) cans

1 ½ pounds smoked pork, shredded

Seasoning Mix, (recipe follows)

Combine the flour and 1 cup vegetable oil or bacon grease in a Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until a mahogany-colored roux is achieved, about 20-25 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and carefully add the onion, green pepper, celery and garlic, and cook until the vegetables are withered, for about five minutes, stirring constantly. Add the stock and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for an hour, stirring frequently.

Skim off any fat that rises to the top. If the gumbo is thicker than desired, add additional stock until desired texture is achieved.

Cook the greens while the gumbo is simmering. In a skillet set over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet. Reheat the rendered fat and add the collard or mustard greens and onions and sauté until wilted, about five minutes. Crumble the bacon and add it to the greens. Add sugar, vinegar, hot sauce, salt, pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Add the remaining two tablespoons oil or bacon fat to a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the okra and fry until lightly browned to reduce the okra’s natural stringy consistency, about four minutes.

Add the okra, black-eyed peas, greens, shredded pork, and seasoning mix to the gumbo base. Return to a simmer and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve over cooked rice or with a side dish of potato salad.

Seasoning Mix:

2 tablespoons gumbo filé

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon white pepper

2 tablespoons black pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

3 whole bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

If you read the recipe you see that the gumbo can be served with a side of potato salad. This was new to me, but after asking around this is a common thing to have with gumbo. Actually it is not a bad addition, but it is something you would not normally think to use. But the Cajuns always eat gumbo with rice. And I set out a bottle of Tabasco – my favorite hot sauce – to add just before eating.

This is a good hearty family meal for New Years or cook more to serve a crowd that may be coming by on New Years Day. Happy New Year!