Chicken Gumbo with Collard Greens

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Photo attached below.

This is actually very good and keeps well in fridge and freezer. If you like gumbo and collards (separately), give it a try. It is much better than it sounds. Promise.

This recipe began its life as a vegan gumbo which received a 5star rating on where it appeared. I like gumbo, and I was looking for something different to do with an extra bunch of collards, so I decided to give it a try - even though I figured it would probably be somewhere between boring and just plain awful. Initially, I wasn't too impressed, so I started working on it.

As I worked, I made a few changes (because the original vegan version was pretty bland and forgettable). Clearly, it's no longer vegan. The final result was really quite delicious, and the leftovers got even better every day they sat in the fridge letting the flavors mingle, so I decided to post the recipe here in case someone else might like to give it a try. Seriously, it really is much better than it looks/sounds.

Note: the ingredients here are based on what I used; however, you can use more chicken if desired and/or any combination of meat. Other meats typically used in gumbo include sausage (especially smoked) and shrimp and other seafood. Also, the original vegan recipe called for kidney beans. Although not usually seen in gumbo, I used them and decided I liked the texture and taste they provided; however, you can leave them out if desired.

I made mine in a crock pot. Below I give both the crock pot method I used and the original stove top instructions.


1 med stalk or bunch collard greens
1 1/2 cups chopped okra
chicken broth or bullion, about 6cups (I used ham Better Than Bullion)
16oz can diced tomatoes
16oz can kidney beans
a few chunks ham, 3-6oz or as desired
1/2 chicken breast
2 onions, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
**1 tsp file powder (optional) also known as file gumbo and gumbo file
sugar, salt, garlic salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (ground or flakes) to taste
enough roux to achieve desired thickness (see below for ingredients/recipe)
2 cups rice, pre-cooked
liquid smoke to taste

** for additional information on file powder and why it is considered optional here, see Post #8331439 below, the response to hemlady's question.

Note: I list the following items as optional because, while they were part of the original recipe and while they would probably compliment the dish, I did not have them on hand and thus did not use them in mine. In lieu of garlic and oregano, I used Adobo seasoning (for salt) which contains salt, garlic, and oregano.

4 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves

You can use your own favorite roux or one of the following.
The original recipe called for 1/4 c oil & 1/4 c flour to be mixed and then heated and browned in a skilled or small pot until red-brown in color before adding to the gumbo (at the time stated in recipe).
I didn't want to use that much oil, so I mixed 1/2 c flour and 1/2 c water (I like a thicker gumbo) together with a whisk. I didn't brown it. I just stirred it into the gumbo (at the time stated) and heated the gumbo until thickened. This worked fine and gave me a lower fat version.

Crock Pot Method:
This is the method I used. It's easier and came out great.

Put everything in the crockpot except chicken, roux (or flour and oil), okra, kidney beans, rice, and liquid smoke. Add broth. At this time, start with about 1/2t salt, 2 T sugar, and a dash of cayenne pepper or flakes. These quantities will be adjusted later. Cook on low for 10hrs.

Steam chicken in salted water (I used Adobo for salt) until tender. Cool. Remove from bone, chop, and add to gumbo. Add beans, file powder, and okra. Stir in roux. Cook an additional hour on low. If you used bay leaf, remove at this time.

Adjust seasoning. Start with salt, adjust to taste. Add cayenne pepper to taste, but be careful with this especially if using pepper flakes as it sometimes takes a while for the full heat to develop. It's better to use too little than too much as you can always add more. With salt and heat adjusted, now add sugar 1T at a time as needed to counter any bitterness from collards. The ones I used for this were probably the bitterest I've ever tasted, but when all of the seasonings were adjusted and allowed to mingle, it came out wonderful.

Add liquid smoke last and adjust to taste, or serve with liquid smoke allowing diners to use as desired.

The original recipe said to stir in rice at this time (last). I skipped this step and served mine over rice. I knew there would be leftovers, and I didn't want the rice to swell and get over cooked.

Stove Top Method:
In a large soup pot, boil the greens (and ham) in two cups water for about ten minutes. Cover and allow to steam for 5 to 10 more minutes. Reserve the cooking water.

In a separate small pot, whisk together the 1/4 cup oil and flour over low heat to form a roux, stirring continuously for about 10 to 15 minutes. Once it turns a dark reddish brown, remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large soup or stock pot, sautee the onions, bell pepper, celery and tomatoes for a few minutes in the 2 tablespoons of oil, until just soft. Reduce the heat and add the hot sauce, file powder, cayenne, thyme, oregano, parsley and garlic and cook, stirring for one or two more minutes.

Add the four and oil roux and the vegetable broth and stir well to combine. Add the cooking water from the collard greens and the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, and allow to cook for 15 minutes.

If using chicken, steam separately in water with salt, covered, until cooked through. Cool. Remove from bone. Chop.

Add the collard greens, okra, kidney beans, chicken, and rice and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Vegan Method:
The original recipe was vegan. To return to the vegan dish, simply omit the ham, chicken, and liquid smoke from the ingredients list, substitute vegetable stock for chicken broth, and cook by either the crock pot or stove top methods listed above.

Edited to add that there is a photo below and again later to make file powder an optional ingredient.

This message was edited Jan 25, 2011 1:47 PM

This message was edited Jan 26, 2011 1:11 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Photo of my lunch. Leftovers of this gumbo over a bed of rice and dusted with smoked paprika. Mmmm. Warming but healthy comfort food for a cold winter day.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Melvindale, MI(Zone 5a)

Sounds delicious. What is file powder?? I have never heard of that.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi hemlady,

Actually, I didn't know the answer to that myself until fairly recently. File powder aka file gumbo aka gumbo file is a powder made by drying and grinding the new leaves of the sassafras tree. It was discovered by Native Americans as a way to flavor and thicken soups long before the arrival of European settlers to the Americas.

Because I love gumbo, and file powder is a primary seasoning agent of gumbo, I bought a small jar of it from the spice aisle of the grocery store (Publix). It wasn't on the actual spice rack but nearby in a grouping of miscellaneous flavorings. The product I bought was made by Zatarain's.

Based on my experiments with the product and on the information presented at the links below, unless you can make your own fresh file powder (how to information at link below), you are probably just as well off to leave it out. If sassafras trees don't grow in your area, you might be able to get someone along the US gulf coast to send you some. Otherwise, it's probably best to forget about it. Note that the flour in the roux will serve to thicken the gumbo and can be adjusted to achieve the thickness you desire.

The link below explains how to make your own file powder and also compares the store bought product to freshly made. The author notes a difference in color, the homemade product being green not tan, and states that while freshly ground sassafras leaves impart a wonderful flavor, she did not care for the effect of the store bought powder. She also found that while a teaspoon of the freshly made product thickened an entire pot of soup, no amount of the store bought product would alter the thickness at all.

I've never tried the freshly ground product, but long before reading that web page, which explains a lot, I found that I couldn't really tell much of a difference in flavor and no difference in thickness when adding the purchased file powder to various soups. Now that I've read this, I probably won't buy the product again.

Upon checking the Zatarain's website it would appear from the packaging that my bottle is an older design no longer sold by the company. I'm guessing file powder is not a fast seller except maybe in Louisianna, the home of Cajun and Creole foods, so even if you find it, it's likely to be old. Just my opinion. I hope this information helps. Given this new information, I'm going to edit the recipe to indicate that the file powder is optional.

Here is the link explaining what it is & how to make it and also comparing store bought to homemade:

Here is a link showing some versions of the product. The one I bought isn't shown:

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Sadly, I ate the last bowl of this gumbo last night. : (

I still have some more collards and am tempted to make another pot right away. Either way I will definitely be making this gumbo again. My definition of a good recipe is one for which I'm happy to have leftovers. This was my goto lunch every day until it was gone, and some days I also had a little with dinner.

I love collards cooked the 'regular' way, so it was extremely difficult for me to risk a pot of collards to try this recipe, but I'm very glad I did.

Melvindale, MI(Zone 5a)

I love collards too and often grow them in my garden. Thanks for the explanation of file powder. That was real interesting.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

You're very welcome, hemlady,

Thank you for asking. Before you asked, I knew the basics, but it was in looking for a link to post that I found the one about making your own and learned the reason why my file powder didn't seem to be working as expected. Seems we both learned something.

I've been eating and enjoying collards since I was a kid - and growing them, too, when I had a garden. I love how they grow in winter when many other vegetables will not and how they are undaunted even by heavy frost. With the calcium content of a glass of milk, almost as much Vit C per calorie as an orange, 2/3 the Vit A of carrots, and the same potassium per calorie as a banana plus a whopping 1000% of the daily Vit K requirement and 1/2 a days supply of folate along with a good dose of magnesium and phosphorus, you certainly can't beat them for a nutrient dense, guilt free food source.

This is the very 1st time, however, that I've tried a non-traditional recipe using collards. It worked out much better than I had imagined. Now I look forward to trying many others like the one I saw for collard leaves stuffed with red beans and rice and covered in a tomato based sauce, the one for collards with cornbread dumplings, sweet and sour collards, and collard and rice pilaf. The skies the limit. If even one more experiment turns out anywhere near as good as this one it will all be worth it.

I'm so glad you stopped by and posted. Collards are quite the controversial subject. Generally, people either love them but already have that one traditional, family recipe and refuse to try anything else, or they run and hide at the mere sound of the word 'collards'. Either way, I knew it was risky to post such an unusual recipe, so I'm very glad to see someone show interest, especially since it really was a very good dish. Let's face it, no matter how much you love them done the traditional way, if you plant collards you are bound to have more than you can eat and will surely get a little tired of that one cooking method at some point.

If any of the other recipes turn out to be good, I will post them. The stuffed leaves sound particularly interesting to me. Thanks again.

Melvindale, MI(Zone 5a)

I also love kale. I sometimes make the Olive Gardens potato and italian sausage soup and I put some thin sliced kale in it. Very good!!!!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hmm. Sounds yummy. Do you have a recipe for that?

Melvindale, MI(Zone 5a)

I will look for it and post it here.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Our collards, kale, mustards, turnips and chard winter over and we can pick a bit here and there for our soups. I love gumbo with any kind of greens and probably wreck traditional recipes by throwing in randomly foraged greens. However, there is a classic recipe called gumbo z'herbes which is traditionally served during Lent and can be easy or complicated depending on your energy and stick-to-it-iveness. I make it as complicated as what the garden offers up.

Melvindale, MI(Zone 5a)


l-l/2 cups spicy sausage links (about 12 links) You may use sweet italian sausage if you don't want spicey
3/4 cup diced onions
6 slices bacon cut into pieces
l-l/4 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chicken stock(or powdered buillion)
1 quart water
2 medium potatoes cut in half and then into l/4 slices
2 cups kale cut in half and then sliced
l/3 cup heavy whipping cream


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place sausage links onto a sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until done. Cut into half lenthwide, then cut at an angle into l/2 inch slices. Place onions and bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost clear. If there is too much bacon grease, you may drain some off. Add garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Add chicken stock, water, potatoes, and kale and simmer 15 minutes. Add sausage, and cream. Simmer 4 minutes and serve.

Very good!!!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank You, hemlady!

That sure does look delicious. I've been wanting to try this and other Olive Garden soups, but I must confess that on the occasion that I find myself at the Olive Garden, I am unable to resist the Chicken Gnocchi soup, and thus can never get to anything else. The chicken gnocchi soup reminds me of Mom's chicken and dumplings, a childhood favorite no longer available.

I, too, love kale, especially dinosaur lacinato. I love pretty much all greens really, so I look forward to trying your wonderful recipe and greatly appreciate that you took the time to provide it here. I've tagged it (a few for ease in finding it again in the future.

Thanks again!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi MaypopLaurel,

Wow. I've never heard of this gumbo z'herbes. I've really only had the basic chicken/sausage/shrimp type gumbo. I'm not of Cajun or creole heritage, and gumbo is not a dish common to Charleston, not something one is likely to encounter in the home growing up. We do eat a lot of okra in this region though, and I fell in love with gumbo from the moment I 1st tasted it.

Thanks for enlightening me with this info. Do you by chance have a recipe for the gumbo z'herbes, one that you might be willing to share?

Melvindale, MI(Zone 5a)

You are welcome!!!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

As I still have some collards left, both in the freezer and fridge and as I've been missing this wonderful gumbo every day since I finished that last bowl, today I plan to load up the crock pot and make another batch. I'll probably use the collards I froze recently for this.

The small amount of fresh collards I have remaining are the tender inner leaves. I've actually found that I like the smallest leaves, the heart if you will, the pale, whitish green baby leaves, raw, so I'll have them as crudites this afternoon. The small inner leaves are actually surprisingly sweet when raw, quite the opposite of what one might expect.

With the remaining tender leaves, those which are still too large to be eaten raw, I'm going to try them in a pilaf. I'll roll the leaves and chiffonade them, saute with onions, green peppers, and chopped ham, and then steam with rice, Better Than Bullion ham flavor, and red pepper flakes.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

DOS, I am not a LA native either and don't presume to present as authoritative on that cuisine. I love those flavors though. So, as for your request for a recipe, I wing it based on following recipes I followed from thirty years ago. My favorite inspiration is Leah Chase's recipe. Her restaurant, Dooky Chase's, has always been at the top of my favs when I visit LA. Regarding both the meats and greens in the recipe...I've eaten hers and made the recipe as written but I've also used all kinds of meat and green combos. It's all good. Some say there's supposed to be a mathematical scale to gumbo z'herbes. That you should have a primary green and others in descending order and it should be odd numbers. Like nine parts collards, seven mustard, five kale, three carrot tops and one beet. Maybe there's a religious significance to this for Lent...I don't know? I've also used various cabbage and kale varieties, rutabaga tops, parsley and chard. Don't let the list of ingredient be daunting. You don't need them all to make a great gumbo/greens z'herbes.

Recipe for Chase's Gumbo Z'herbes

A New Orleans tradition on Holy Thursday:

1 bunch mustard greens

1 bunch collard greens

1 bunch turnip greens

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch beet tops

1 bunch carrot tops

1/2 head of lettuce

1/2 head of cabbage

1 bunch spinach

3 cups onions, diced

1/2 cup garlic, chopped

1 1/2 gallons water

5 tablespoons flour

1 pound smoked sausage

1 pound smoked ham

1 pound hot sausage

1 pound brisket, cubed

1 pound stew meat

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon file powder

Clean greens under cold running water, making sure to pick out bad leaves. Rinse away any soil or grit. The greens should be washed 2 to 3 times. Chop greens coarsely and place in 12-quart pot along with onions, garlic and water. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Strain greens and reserve liquid. Place greens in bowl of a food processor and puree or chop in meat grinder. Pour greens into a mixing bowl, sprinkle in 5 tablespoons flour, blend and set aside.

Dice all meats into 1-inch pieces and place into the 12-quart pot. Return the reserve liquid to the pot and bring to a low boil, cover and cook 30 minutes. Add pureed greens, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cover and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until meat is tender, approximately 1 hour. Add water if necessary to retain volume. Add file powder, stir well and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, MaypopLaurel!

I will definitely have to give that a try, too. I'm going to be very busy.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I made my 2nd pot of the Collard Gumbo today as expected. Yummy! I just tasted it a few minutes ago, and I think this one tastes even better than the 1st. This time I started with a large container of collard greens with ham that I had cooked and seasoned previously and then frozen for later use. I thawed them in the microwave and then put them in the crock pot with tomatoes, onion, kidney beans, okra, roux, and chopped chicken breast.

Changes: This time I made the roux by browning 1/4c oil & 1/4c flour as per the original instructions (given). As stated above, I cooked and seasoned the collards 1st before combining with other ingredients. I omitted green peppers because I'm out of them. In the prior pot of gumbo, I chopped the collard stems in with the collards. Thinking that may have contributed to the extreme bitterness, this time I left the stems out.

I let the whole thing cook for 4hrs without adding any additional seasoning beyond what I had originally put in the collards. I'm not sure what made the difference, but this pot actually tastes even better still. Yum. (I didn't finish my collard pilaf yet as my back started to hurt. Maybe tomorrow.)

I forgot to mention, perhaps the most important change. This time I omitted the file powder. Since this pot turned out even better than the 1st, clearly, it's not necessary.

Edited to add final paragraph.

This message was edited Jan 29, 2011 8:25 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Today I made that collard pilaf, OMG, it was fabulous! I'm so not kidding. I ate 2 bowls of the stuff. As good as the collard gumbo was, I do believe the pilaf was even better still.

You might wonder about this seeming preoccupation with collards. Well, I like collards, but this sudden push to eat so much of them is due to the qty I bought at the after New Years sale when they were $1.50 for 2 large bunches of beautiful greens. Unable to resist the obvious giveaway, I bought 4 bunches or $3 worth - to feed 1 person! After cooking and eating a huge pot of collards cooked the traditional, southern way, I still had a lot more greens to cook and found that I was a bit tired for the moment of 'regular' collards. Thus I have been looking for other ways to cook and enjoy the remaining greens.

Below is my recipe for Collard Pilaf.

4c collards, approximate, I used the smaller, inner leaves, about 9in long as they are more tender and delicate in flavor
1/2 med onion chopped
1/2 c green pepper chopped
1/4 c gelatinous broth saved from [low sodium] baked ham, fat removed (optional)
1 c brown rice
1/2 c cooked wild rice, optional
2 c water
2 T oil or butter/margarine
T red pepper flakes
**1 heaping teaspoon Better Than Bullion Ham flavor or equivalent amount other bullion
3 T sugar
1/2c ham, finely chopped (optional)

**instead of using bullion, you could also substitute chicken stock for all or part of the water

Remove stems and chiffonade collard leaves. (stack 3 or 4 leaves at a time, roll tightly and cut into 1/4in crosswise strips using knife or kitchen shears) Mound collard 'ribbons' in bowl and snip randomly with kitchen shears a few times (to eliminate long ribbons).

Saute collards, onions, green pepper, red pepper flakes, and ham in oil (plus ham broth if using) until leaves are wilted but still retain their bright green color.

Bring water and bullion (or chicken stock) to boil in 2.5qt or larger pot. Add rice and sugar. Stir. Add collard mixture on top. Bring to boil again. (Don't stir after adding greens.) Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 30min. Fluff with fork. Let sit 5 min. Stir in pre-cooked wild rice.

This message was edited Feb 1, 2011 1:37 AM

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

You can never be too rich, too beautiful or have too many collards. I've got a freezer full myself. Even the stems went for a looong simmer with a ham hock and ended in the freezer. They become old softies after the low and slow treatment and are great for soup. The crockpot is good for taming those stems but they still need a vacation in the freezer.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thanks for the idea, MaypopLaurel,

I kept all the stems - except the ones I cut up in that pot of gumbo. I've been looking for something I could use them for. That's a great idea. I'll pop them in the crock pot and then freeze them for later use. Times are tough right now, so I'm trying not to waste anything I can use. I even looked around online for idea for how to use them. Thanks again.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I was thinking of using the sstems as a green veggie soup base but after a spin in the crockpot they were almost perfect and I hated to throw them out. I'm all about the texture i.e. roughage being as important as flavor when cooking a dish. It's one of my gripes with French recipes. Cooking to extract flavors and then throwing out the flavor source has never made sense to me.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I actually found that the crisp stems, especially young stems, are actually good eaten raw. They don't taste anything like collard greens but are actually very sweet. Some ideas I found online include using chopped raw stems in salads and spreads much as you would celery or even as a sub for celery. They can be sliced long ways or cross ways and used in stir fries. Chopped, they can be added to meat loaf.

Other than eating a few small pieces raw, I've not tried any of these ideas yet.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Drat! I had planned to photograph the collard rice dish for you. Unfortunately, I gobbled it all up before I could remember the photo.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I would have loved to have seen it again. Maybe a repeat is in order?

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)


I would love to make another pot of that Collard Pilaf, but now I'm pretty much out of collards. When I get some more - which means when I find some at a descent price, I'll do a repeat and get that photo. Thanks for asking.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I don't know if I mentioned this above (probably did, but just in case), but when I made the collard gumbo at the top of this thread, I was unemployed and had been for almost a year. Times were hard financially, and I was doing my best to get by with whatever I had on hand plus a few things I could find at steep discount, mostly 1/2 price items, loss leaders for the week. That's why I had to leave out the spices and such. Anything I didn't have on hand, had to be omitted, but the gumbo turned out great anyhow.

About a month ago I finally started a new job. For the 1st few weeks I was too busy and/or exhausted to do much cooking. Then one day last week when I was sorting through some photos, I ran across the photos I had taken of the gumbo (for this thread). After that, I could not get the stuff out of my mind.

I have money again now, and after a year of doing w/out I stuff the fridge full of my favorite foods, lots of yogurt and fresh fruits and vegetables, things I generally couldn't afford while I was unemployed. But even with all that food, I just had to have some more of that gumbo. I figure that's the 'gold standard', if I still want it now that I can have pretty much whatever I want - and I DO. Thus I thought I would post to let you know.

Today I made a huge, oval, crock pot full to the top with it, let it cook all day while I was at work, added the last items (roux, beans, okra) when I got home, and let it cook a bit longer. I just put the finished gumbo into the fridge. I tasted it 1st, of course, and it's super yummy just as I remembered - and last time I found that it just seems to get better the longer it sits in the fridge allowing the flavors to mingle.

This time, having a job, I was able to add ALL of the ingredients, including thyme, oregano, fresh garlic, bay leaf, and celery, all items I had to omit previously but which I was able to pick up this time. I'll be having gumbo tomorrow. Can't wait. I'll post again soon to let you know if I can tell a difference with the additional ingredients and if it's better this way.

Now that I'm working and can afford to buy the ingredients, I'm also looking forward to trying some of the other things we discussed like the Olive Garden soup. Very soon!

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Congratulations! You can now afford to take yourself in for dinner. :)

Dahlonega, GA

Bless you , been there, done that. Thank God for better times .
My wish for everyone .

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

It was fun to read through this thread! I am from S. LA (New Iberia) and parents/grandparents from New Orleans. I made gumbo z'herbes once ages ago and it was fabulous! But my recipe didn't have all those items--I understand you can pick and choose though. I think mine had pickled pork for the meat. YUM! Now I'll think about making that again. By the way, file (pronounced fee-lay) is optional, like you said. The okra will also provide some thickening--you know, the slime some people really don't like! You can make a "dry" roux to avoid the oil. Just put your flour in a heavy pot--cast iron is best. Put the heat on medium and stir, stir, stir (whisk works well) until it starts to brown. Put the stovetop vent/fan on. Stop just before it gets to the level of brown you want, let cool, and store in frig for a couple of months. To use, when the gumbo is hot, mix in several tablespoons at a time and stir until it blends in and thickens. Add more if not thick enough.
Hope that helps! D-mail me if you have questions or want more cajun/creole recipes! Janet Gautreaux Barrilleaux, authentic S. LA girl!

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

We eat green gumbo (gumbo z'herbes) frequently and use what ever is on hand. A ham hock, ham bone, smoked turkey wings or legs or leftover roasted meat/chicken juices. Even a stock made from shrimp shells and leftover fish parts is good. Anything to enrich the base (pot likker). I've used a variety of pickled hot peppers from our garden for zip. A bit of the vinegar adds balance and brings out the flavors. As for the greens, anything in the garden is fair game. Cabbage, collards, kale, spinach, chard, and beet greens. Romaine lettuce is too good...whatever. The flavor is best with a mix. I make roux with and without oil. I use a ceramic coated non-stick skillet for the oil free version. It's hard to control the heat in cast iron and a good roux takes some time to toast.

Bariolo, can't believe you are a LA native and don't eat gumbo every day for breakfast. I would. Well maybe alternate between that and jambalya. lol

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)


Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Thank you very much for the info and tips. Coming from someone who grew up on this type of food, your input is all the more valuable to me. I love Gumbo & Jambalaya and will choose almost anything on a menu if it just has Cajun or Creole in the name. In my area of Coastal SC we eat a lot of okra, fried, stewed with tomatoes, and in 'okra soup'. Our native cuisine has only minor (and far removed) Cajun-type influences like our love of okra-based soup, 'red rice' with ham and/or sausage, and a love of hot sausage, both smoked and pork varieties.

I grew up eating okra pretty much as soon as I could handle solid food. As a result, I learned to appreciate all of its qualities. I didn't even realize it was 'slimy' until later in my life when other people, typically non-southerners began pointing that out as a perceived disadvantage. Personally, I love the thickness it brings to both Mom's okra soup and to gumbo. My love of gumbo (which to me means a thick & spicy soup with okra) is such that, if it's on the menu, that's what I'm having.

On one occasion I caused everyone at the table's jaw to drop when, of all the more seemingly glamorous options, I chose gumbo from the menu at Magnolias. Magnolia's is an especially high-end (and not inexpensive) Charleston restaurant the chef of which has been featured in magazine articles galore and even on TV programs such as a survey of Chefs of the World by the Discovery Channel. It's the kind of place one goes to for a very special occasion, not a routine hangout. The person who was paying for that meal even questioned my choice, "Gumbo? You came to Magnolias for Gumbo?!" I stood by my ground though and found the chef's interpretation most delightful. I never miss a chance to enjoy gumbo.

Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to try out your tips or to make gumbo again since your post. Shortly after my posts above I acquired a job after a year of unemployment. Going back to work again was difficult & quite exhausting both mentally & physically after such a lengthy vacation, so I just didn't have time to do any serious cooking. This is also why I never contacted you for more info. Still, I appreciate very much the information you provided. I know that I will make gumbo again eventually and I will try out your suggestions.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Dream, I saw what I think was your chef on our PBS station. He was interviewed on one of the regular interview shows, locally produced. I dont remember his name but he is really into growing authentic vegetables that produce heirloom dishes like "hoppin john" for instance. He said he discovered that for it to taste "legendary" one had to use the yellow rice grown in the region long ago and the red peas typically grown in the region. Without those, he wondered what all the fuss was about. I think he had a farm where he was growing the food for his two restaurants. I think he grew up in North Carolina but was born in SC. I have a really bad memory but I think that is what I heard from him.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi, Steadycam,

Yep, I think you nailed it, even right down to the 2 restaurants. The other one, Camellia, while still a very fine restaurant is a bit more laid back and trendy with a bit of bit of an Italian influence. It features a lot of pasta dishes and pizza. The latter bearing no relationship to the typical, '30 minute delivery', combination of greasy meat & cheese runs more along the lines of wood fired grilled chicken with fresh rosemary and shitaki mushrooms, blah, blah, blah.

I've read that 2 about the garden & fresh produce. I believe the garden is in the Wadmalaw Island area, a rural, farming region just outside of the city of Charleston. I think the garden is even mentioned on the Magnolia's website along with his paradigm for the restaurantfood being an upscale interpretation of traditional SC and southern cuisine.

In Charleston, our main 'product' is tourism. Thus the city is packed with restaurants, especially in the downtown, tourist area. Many of the restaurants, even good ones, only survive a few years. Magnolias is one of only a very few (low, single digits) such restaurants that has managed an enduring presence spanning several decades such that it is now a hallmark feature of the downtown area. With so very many restaurants to choose from and considering the price, dress code, and fact that it's virtually impossible to get in 'spur of the moment' w/o a reservation, I've only eaten there a handful of times (so far). Every meal I have ever had there has been spectacular and quite memorable. The fish that accompanied my gumbo meal there (years ago, no longer on the menu, unfortunately) was w/o question THE best fish I have ever tasted, both in its flavor and extraordinary texture. I drool every time I remember it. To this day I wish I had bothered to pay attention to the type of fish, as I would dearly love to have that again - and again and again.

Thanks for that walk down memory lane.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I should probably add that the gumbo I ordered that day at Magnolias did not actually turn out, when it arrived at my table, to be very much at all like traditional gumbo - but it was delicious, nonetheless. Dishes there are the chef's upscale interpretation of the traditional dishes. As I recall, what actually arrived at the table was a multi-tiered dish with the soup/gumbo in a pedestal dish held above an assortment of fish, prawns, lobster (or maybe crayfish. it's been a while now), etc.

The guy who was paying that day was a bit unhappy that I had chosen something as pedestrian as gumbo in so fine a restaurant, but (1) I love gumbo, regardless and (2) what was served was anything but pedestrian. Actually, given that I love gumbo so much, I was eager to see/taste the chef's interpretation of gumbo in so fine a restaurant. It did not disappoint. I've had many fine steaks and such at nice restaurants, and yet recall hardly anything about most of them, but I can still taste that gumbo, especially that most delectable fish. It still amazes me even to think I could have enjoyed any fish that much as I don't normally think of fish as particularly special.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Cheryl -- I have to admit, one time, I attempted to "venture out" and try collard greens... sorry to say, it has to be an acquired taste to you southerners. I'm not big on Gumbo either but DH likes it.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

LOL, Terese,

It probably is an acquired taste. That said, I think there is a 2nd component of the problem in that you have to know how to cook it. Those of us who grew up eating it, know how our Mom's and Grandma's cooked it. Often when I question those who say they tried it and hated it, I find that they tried to cook it in a more 'Northern' style (or not Southern). Usually, they steam it or saute it a bit, treating as kale. With that treatment, it's no surprise they find it tough & bitter and wonder what on earth we see in it.

To cook it 'properly' (i.e. the Southern way, the way we typically like it), you need cook it for 30min or longer in a large, preferably heavy, pot along with a qty of meat, usually ham, ham hocks, pork neck or back bones (may be smoked), etc. I'm told that smoked turkey legs are also good. My mom often used a chunk of pork loin or pork chops, so that's what I prefer. Many people also add vinegar & hot sauce, often at the table. I like to add sugar, enough to cut the bitterness. They can take a while to cook (esp the ones from the store), so I like to cook them in the crock pot, so I don't have to spend so much time in the kitchen. If you cook them this way, lightly sweetened, infused with smoky meat (and a little fat), and cooked until soft, they become, well, tres yummy - or maybe it really is just an a comfort food for those with the acquired taste.

As to gumbo, I didn't grow up eating gumbo. That's not a SC dish. I was an adult before I tasted it for the 1st time, but I think a life time of eating okra soup helped to prepare me.

Bottom line, you need to try collards (and other 'greens') cooked the southern way before you can say you don't like them. If you still don't like them, that's ok, too. More for us. ;-)

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

LOL -- you can have mine ;-)

Dahlonega, GA

I posted on another forum that I like collards cold , right from the fridge . Makes a great cold salad too .
Sorry you haven't eaten collards the right way cooked , even my dogs beg for little bites and little pups are picky .
I like all the "strong " veggies .

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