Friday, February 10, 2012

Duck & Smoked Sausage Filé Gumbo!

When I lived in Louisiana, the majority of my coworkers were big into hunting.  Fishing too, of course.  Deer, turkey, duck, rabbit, squirrel… you name it, they’ll shoot it.  I learned the different game seasons by observing the Mondays that the office fellas showed up late because they’d been out in a field in camo at daybreak….or when they all started growing their beards out to protect their faces from the early morning winds.

After all, Louisiana is The Sportsman’s Paradise, particularly to those who have a long family lineage in the state.  Their great-granddaddies grew up living off what Mother Nature could provide, and that culture is as ingrained in their blood as their love for rice & gravy or pecan pie.


(Cal & Griff…two of the aforementioned coworkers, and the proprietors of my favorite Cajun seasoning, Fontenot & A Half…)

They all acknowledge that it’s an expensive hobby, and when you factor in the cost of gear, guns, ammo, & hunting leases, you’d be far better off taking your car to the nearest supermarket for pre-packaged meat rather than driving out to the Basin marshes.  But they continue on all the same, and who am I to say anything?  Me, who now lives in a landlocked state & has a closet full of scuba gear that gets used about 3 times a year (FYI—Missouri water is COLD.)

Plus, these are Southern gentlemen.  And Southern gentlemen share.  Which is why I actually know how to cook wild game, ‘cuz Lord knows my sleep-lovin’ butt isn’t going out to sit in a cold duck blind at 4am.  No thank you, I’ll still be tucked away in my warm bed.  You just bring it back, all cleaned & pretty, and I’ll cook it up when the clock says a reasonable hour & feed it to you.  How’s that sound?

So in 2007, when Chef John Folse (owner of the Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant and proprietor of the John Folse Culinary Institute) released his massive cook-bible “After the Hunt-Louisiana's Authoritative Collection of Wild Game & Game Fish Cookery”, I snagged an autographed copy from a book signing (at a pricetag of over $40—by far the most I’ve ever spent on a cook book.  But it’s over 800 pages, and according to Amazon, they retail for over $60 now, so I got a heckuva deal).


But when I moved to Missouri, I was no longer surrounded by hunters.  Which is nice at times because it means I don’t  get caught in “staff meetings turned fish tales” anymore, but it also means I don’t have coworkers sauntering into my office anymore saying, “hey, I brought in some extra packs of venison/catfish/squirrel; they’re in the freezer if you want one.”  And that part makes me miss my old beard-covered, marsh-loving coworkers a bit.

So when I found out that a couple of the guys in our field department actually are duck hunters, I got really excited.  And one of them was kind enough to bring me a freezer bag full of duck breasts.

What to do, what to do???

I busted out John Folse’s bible & flipped to the “Waterfowl” section.  (For the record, this is the only cookbook I’ve ever seen that has a “Waterfowl” section.)

image(Other “normal size” cookbook & phone included for scale.) 


Also, said Waterfowl section is about 80 pages long.  So I had a LOT of choices.  Too many, perhaps.  So I ended up reserving half of the duck for a future recipe. 

But I figured it’s high-time I did a gumbo.  I haven’t made a gumbo post on this blog EVER, and I haven’t made a gumbo from scratch since…well…since I lived in New Orleans.  (Note: at that time, I was not aware of the subtle “rules” that govern gumbo making, and that one typically shouldn’t use more than two meats in a gumbo…so my chicken-sausage-clam-shrimp-okra gumbo had some really weird flavors going on.)



3 moderately sized duck breasts (about 1 lb of meat)

6 cups chicken stock or broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 cup roux (whether you use instant roux or the traditional method is up to you)

1 cup diced onion

1/2 diced bell pepper

2 stalks celery, diced

3 minced garlic cloves

9 oz smoked turkey sausage (the original recipe calls for venison sausage, which is a great option if you have it.  I did not.  Sad face.)

Seasonings to taste (S&P, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder)

1/8 cup dried chives or green onions

Filé powder to taste (a somewhat earthy spice made from ground sassafras leaves, typical for gumbos that don’t have okra in them)

4 cups cooked rice



Rinse the duck breasts & cut up into bite sized pieces…rinse again. Duck breasts are super lean & high in iron…but they’re also pretty bloody.  Thus the gorgeous dark color:


Place the duck meat in a large stockpot with the chicken broth & bring to a boil.  Add the bay leaves & red pepper, then cover, reduce to simmer, & let cook for about 45 minutes or until tender.  The salt from the stock will help tenderize the meat.

In a large skillet, make your roux:


(I will “rue” the day that I run out of this stuff.  HAH…rue…roux…get it??? *snorts* Ahem…moving on…)


…and after it turns a nice dark brown, add your veggies & garlic.  Sauté for 5 minutes.


When the duck appears to be ready, fish out the bay leaves & discard.  Add your roux-veggie mix one scoopful at a time to the duck & chicken stock, stirring well to combine & integrate the roux between each scoop.  When that’s all added in, add your sausage. 


Cover & let simmer for about 30 minutes, then add seasoning as needed to taste.  (File powder can be placed on the table for guests to add to their own taste, since it’s a very unique flavor, and some aren’t as accustomed to it as others.)

Serve one heaping cup of gumbo over 1/2 cup rice.


(Center rice ball formed using an ice cream scoop—then gumbo poured around & over it.  This is a pretty traditional serving presentation.)


NOTE: It’s also traditional to have potato salad as a side dish with gumbo—some people mix the potato salad in with the gumbo as well.  It REALLY complements the flavors of gumbo well, so I highly recommend this.  In fact, I may make some deviled egg potato salad soon to serve with this.  Some people really like to have a hard boiled egg on the side.


Many thanks again to the Eichmeyers for providing the duck!  I can’t wait to pick another recipe to use the rest of the duck meat for!!!


Nutrifacts: (Makes 8 servings)

Calories 388.2

  Total Fat 12.5 g

  Saturated Fat 3.8 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.3 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 4.1 g

  Cholesterol 104.6 mg

  Sodium 1,077.1 mg

  Potassium 368.0 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 39.1 g

  Dietary Fiber 4.5 g

  Sugars 4.1 g

  Protein 26.1 g

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