The Friday that precedes Easter Sunday, Good Friday, is a day of fasting as it pertains to the hoof and the fin. On the Thursday before Easter, Holy Thursday, the Creole homes are filled with the smells of the garden’s greens as they succumb to the heat and the temptation that can only be whispered by smoked pork. Gumbo Z’herbs is the traditional dish responsible for the aroma of holiness that blankets the city of New Orleans on Holy Thursday. It is comprised of as many different greens that can possibly be foraged and simmered together with a bit of moral leniency in the form of pork.
The Creoles consider the dish “vegetarian” and within the Church’s eye of good faith because the pork is used only as seasoning and then is taken out. But I consider dispensing a perfectly good piece of pork a much greater blasphemy. For I am as pure as the sting of Gin with a slice of cucumber on a Sunday afternoon, so this recipe is my attempt to straighten the lives of all you other sinners out there. At least for just one day of the year.
4 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
1 yellow onion diced medium
2 stalks of celery diced medium
1 green bell pepper diced medium
5 cloves of garlic sliced thinly
2 bay leaves
10 sprigs of fresh thyme tied in a bundle
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
2 quarts of water
2lbs of smoked pork tails
1 bunch of collard greens washed, stemmed and chopped
1 bunch of turnip greens washed, stemmed and chopped
1 bunch of mustard greens washed, stemmed and chopped
1 bunch green kale washed, stemmed and chopped
1 bunch of spinach washed and chopped
1 bunch of Italian parsley stemmed and chopped
1 bunch of radish tops washed and chopped
1 head of green cabbage chopped
1 bunch of scallions chopped
2 ounces of red wine vinegar
1 bottle of pepper vinegar
For the Peanut “Gremoulada”:
1c salted toasted peanuts
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon file powder
2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
2 Tablespoons dried garlic flakes
1 cup diced radishes left over from using the tops from above
Take a very large pot and procure a place for it on your stovetop. Place the pot over a medium flame and melt the butter in it. Add the onion, celery and green bell pepper to the pot. Season the vegetables with a sprinkling of kosher salt as any confident cook would. Stir and cook the vegetables until the onion has become slightly transparent. This should happen much quicker than your last relationship. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Place the bay leaves, thyme, oregano, black pepper, red pepper and flour into your large vessel. Stir to be sure the flour has soaked up all fat. Turn up the heat to your stove’s strongest will and pour in the water. Mix the liquid with your grandmother’s wooden spoon. This is a dish of high reverence and our passage to heaven can use all the help it can get. Lay the smoked tails into the water along with all the rest of the ingredients except the vinegar. Bring the mixture to a low simmer before reducing the stovetop to a medium low flame and covering your pot. Coax the good desire out of your greens and pork for 90 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the red wine vinegar. Taste the Gumbo and season with more salt if your good sense tells you to. If you have no good sense, than don’t ask your mate because they probably don’t have any either. Too many cooks spoil the pot.
To make the Gremoulada, mix all 6 ingredients together and set aside. Yes, sometimes life presented to you is actually that easy.
To serve the Gumbo, ladle an appropriate amount into a bowl and sprinkle a bit of the gremoulada over the top and even a solid dousing of pepper vinegar. Feel free to blatantly place a pig tail in your bowl. If you can’t hide anything from God, than whom in the hell cares if your friends see?