When I had the opportunity to participate in an ingredient challenge, I hesitated for approximately three-tenths of a second before enthusiastically volunteering. No, that’s a lie, I didn’t hesitate at all. I don’t often watch shows like Top Chef, but I’ve always been in awe of the chefs’ abilities to receive a mystery ingredient and then, an hour later, present a mouthwatering meal that rivals anything I could ever have imagined making. This was my chance to try.
What made the challenge so exciting was the secret ingredient: Slap ya Mama Cajun seasoning. I’ve had New Orleans on the brain lately. After a few weeks of researching the best eats that the city has to offer, it was fun to come up with my own Creole creation in here in Atlanta.
My kitchen is constantly stocked with items that caught my eye during random shopping trips. It wasn’t a difficult decision to incorporate a frozen duck that I got a few weeks ago – and not only because my roommate keeps asking pointedly, “So when are we going to eat that duck?” I bought it at the Asian market and was dismayed to see, when I got home, that the package read “For Stewing.” I had been so excited at the low price that I neglected to notice it wasn’t labeled as a duckling. We can only assume that it was a grown-up duck that would require braising to become delicious.
Gumbo would be a perfect way to ensure that my duck cooked till it was fall-off-the-bone tender, but it would also be crazily delicious. With the addition of smoked Andouille sausage and shrimp and served over rice, the Slap Ya Mama gumbo became one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. Smoky, spicy, and delicious, it’s the kind of meal that you will crave. It produces the kind of leftovers that become a 2 am snack, fixed as soon as your stomach finishes processing the first round.
I start with a whole duck. Carving a duck is very similar to carving a chicken, except duck has more fat. Just use a sharp knife, feel for the joints to slice through, and you’ll be fine.
Making duck stock while the roux simmers is a great way to use the extra duck parts – wings and bones – and boost the flavor of your product. I make a light stock here and some would even use water instead. But if you’re a detail-oriented home cook, you’ll enjoy boosting the flavors of your dishes. And besides, any leftover stock can be used to make soup, or simmered down to become the base of an unbeatable sauce for another dish.
The hardest part of making gumbo is achieving the bravado required for the gumbo to darken up to the Cajun standard, which is “the color of dark chocolate” according to Emeril Lagasse. After you’ve spent an hour rendering duck fat and gently stirring it into a roux, the fear of burning is great. It’s very tempting to call the roux a roux when it’s golden brown, or even chestnut brown. All sources advise you to let it go as long as you can.
Slap ya Mama Duck Gumbo with Andouille Sausage and Shrimp
serves many… at least 6-8
Slap Ya Mama Seasoning – hot
1 duck, whole
1/2 c flour
1 onion, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 c okra, sliced
1 c celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp salt
A few sprigs fresh thyme, or a tablespoon dried
2 bay leaves
2 large links Andouille sausage, sliced (about 3/4 lb)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and rinsed
Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, carve the duck into serving pieces: two wings, two leg quarters, two breasts. Trim off as much of the fat as you can. Reserve the spine and rib cage. Then, using a sharp knife, score the skin of the duck breasts.
Next, make stock. Place the duck wings and body into a stock pot. Just barely cover with water. Allow to come to the barest simmer, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface.
While the stock is cooking, in a Dutch oven on low-medium heat, render the excess fat that you removed from the duck. When the pieces do not give off any more fat, remove them. Turn up the heat to medium. Season the duck pieces with Slap Yo Mama, then brown the legs and breasts until golden. Remove the pieces from the Dutch oven and reserve on a plate.
Now we’re going to make a roux. You should have about a half-cup of golden liquid duck fat remaining in the Dutch oven. Add a half-cup of flour to this and stir constantly until the roux is dark brown. All of the Cajun cookbooks advise letting it go until it’s mahogany-colored, almost black. See how brave you can be. This will take at least thirty minutes.
When the roux is as dark as you can stand for fear it will burn, add the vegetables (green pepper, okra, celery, onion, garlic). Stir occasionally until vegetables have softened a little. In the meantime, remove the duck pieces from the stock and skim or strain until clear.
When the vegetables have softened, add about six cups of stock to the pot. Add the thyme (tied together with twine if using fresh), 6 tsp Slap Yo Mama, bay leaves, and salt. Then add sausage slices. Stir everything really well to make sure that all the roux has been absorbed into the stock. Then raise the heat to medium-high. Let everything come to a boil, then bring back down to a simmer.
Add the remaining duck pieces and allow to simmer uncovered for at least two hours.
Remove the duck pieces from the gumbo and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and debone. Slice the meat into rough chunks, then add back to the pot along with the shrimp. Let simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Salt to taste.
To see the rest of the Slap Ya Mama challengers, check out the official blog here.