I would venture that at least a majority of The Gracious Posse have a hunter or two in the family who this time of year schedule their holiday activities around duck season. Many a hunting widow curses the sport that keeps her males from participating in the never-ending Christmas preparations. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to turn your thinking around and consider the benefits of duck-hunting season: your guy isn’t around to pester you about the Christmas budget, and if he has any luck, he’ll be bring home the primary fixin’s for one of the best meals coming out of the South.
I first tried duck gumbo courtesy of a Shop & Swap fundraiser at my garden club last year. aWj brought several quarts to sell, and I happened to be there early. On the recommendation of a fellow club member, I claimed my stake and was eager to share it with my husband, especially because that would be one less empty-nest dinner to prepare. Despite the recommendation, I was not prepared for the delight of this tender blending of textures and flavors.
Ever since that cold night last year, I have dreamed of my next encounter with this treat. When I learned the Shop & Swap was not taking place this holiday season, I started scheming. Surely The Gracious Posse could help, so I put out an ask to aWj for a lesson in making this Cajun concoction.
Having grown up in New Orleans, aWj is accomplished in many a Southern skill, not the least of which is knowing her way around a kitchen. She graciously allowed Ellen and me to barge into her culinary domain for surely our favorite cooking lesson ever. aWj even supplied the main ingredient: 12 ducks that had been taking up space in her supplemental freezer.
aWj’s kitchen is a workhorse of a space that she designed for her family’s beautiful Tudor home about five years ago.
Light-filled with windows around three sides, the open cabinets make cooking, serving and clean-up easier on everyone.
Naturally it’s a favorite congregating space; even the family cat, Woody, wants to be in on the action.
When we arrived laden with vegetables and quart jars, aWj already had the ducks simmering for the broth.
We were tripling the recipe that aWj and her mother use from
and aWj was prepared with this South Louisiana favorite: a Magnalite Classic Oval Covered Roaster.
No longer made in the USA, this pan is now a scarce commodity since Hurricane Katrina washed many away.
After the broth was strained, Ellen got to chopping Southern cooking’s holy trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper, while aWj showed me her secret to a true Cajun roux:
slowly add the flour to hot oil stirring almost constantly over low heat.
Once the flour is incorporated, let the roux continue to cook over low heat stirring only occasionally until it is a chocolate-brown color. Then add in the trinity of vegetables and cook until softened.
After adding in the chopped duck meat and seasoning and then the browned sausage (we used turkey and chicken sausage because of Ellen’s meat allergy), we slowly blended in the duck broth. One hour of simmering later, we had quarts full of the best tasting winter stew you can imagine (see full recipe below).
Because duck gumbo is so labor-intensive, it is the perfect dish to prepare with your posse. Ellen and I were tickled when aWj’s next-door-neighbor, mAd dropped by to visit while we were mixing and chopping. Funny how duck-hunting provides male bonding in chilly blinds, while duck gumbo-making provides posse bonding in warm kitchens. Sure makes me glad to be a woman!
Thanks so much aWj for your gracious hospitality! A lot of hunting widows can now take heart that they’ve got delicious something to do with the spoils of the sport. Maybe Ellen and I need to encourage our husbands to take up a new hobby and go hang out in some duck blinds.
December 8, 2015
- 4 ducks, cleaned
- 2 T salt
- 1 t black pepper
- 3 onions, quartered
- 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2/3 c vegetable oil
- 2/3 c all-purpose flour
- 2 c chopped onion
- 1½ c chopped celery
- 1 c chopped bell pepper
- ½ t salt
- ¼ t black pepper
- ¼ t white pepper
- 1½ lbs. smoked sausage, sliced and browned for about 5 minutes
- 3 Q Duck Broth
- 1 t Tabasco sauce
- ½ c chopped fresh parsley
- ½ c chopped green onion tops
- 2 oysters, well-drained (optional)
- 1 T filé powder
- 3 cups rice
- Place ducks in large pot and cover with water.
- Add salt and remaining Broth ingredients.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour or until tender.
- Strain broth into a large bowl and reserve.
- Discard vegetables and skin and bones of ducks. Chop duck meat and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large roasting pan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Gradually add flour and cook and stir until chocolate brown.
- Add onion, celery and bell pepper and cook stirring frequently 10-15 minutes until tender.
- Stir in duck meat, salt and peppers and cook 10 minutes continuing to stir frequently.
- Add sausage and stir.
- Slowly stir in Duck Broth and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for one hour.
- Add Tabasco sauce, parsley and onion tops and continue simmering for 5 minutes.
- If desired, add oysters and cook 10 minutes.
- Skim any fat and add filé powder to thicken.
- Serve over rice.
- Use Lundberg Wild Rice Blend for a truly authentic tasting gumbo.
- Put extra Tabasco sauce and filé powder on the table for the true Cajun aficionado.