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Gumbo z ' Herbes or Green Gumbo

I am always trying to find ways to use leftover ham. Since I host most of our family's holiday get-togethers, I usually prepare the main meat dish. After sending leftovers home with most of our family, we still have more than we can handle. By Spring, we are tired of soup-beans and hungry for something green and light. Once I found this recipe, I knew I had stumbled upon something special.

Traditionally served as a meatless main dish during lent, legend has it that for every green that goes into the pot, a new friend would be made during the year. I'd like to think that after lent, the legend still holds true.

My recipe uses a leftover hambone as well as the leftover meat. I cube the meat and add it to the gumbo towards the end so that it will retain as much flavor as possible.

Make this dish meatless – just use a full bodied stock or broth in place of all or part of the water.

Serves 8 - 10

Ingredients

Ham bone or a ham hocks (optional)
1 pound cubed ham* (you can use more or less – it doesn’t really matter)
2 large or 4 small bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 quarts cold water
About 4 pounds assorted greens**
Olive Oil
2 cups yellow onion, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup parsley leaves, chopped
Filé powder

Method

Fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water. Add the ham bone or hocks, if using, and the bay leaves and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the ham bone and discard.

Add the prepared greens, a handful at a time, and cook until just wilted. Drain, reserving the liquid. Coarsely chop the greens. Set aside.

In the same pot used for cooking the greens, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the Trinity (onions, celery, bell pepper) and cook, stirring often, until soft. Add the cubed meat and cook until the vegetables are golden in color.

Add the greens to the pot and cook a few minutes before adding the reserved liquid, the dried herbs, and the fresh parsley. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste. Remove the bay leaves from the pot before serving.

To serve, ladle into soup bowls and don't forget to pass the Filé powder. Hot, crispy French bread and sweet butter complete this light and easy dinner.


Cook's Notes

*You can substitute cubed sausage, pickled pork, or smoked pork for the ham.
Use your favorite greens - collards, mustard, turnip, spinach, chard, kale, napa cabbage, etc., trimmed, washed, and dried.

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