BAM! If you were a connoisseur of food television back in the day, you’ll recognize that phrase from famed chef Emeril Lagasse. The basis for this gumbo recipe hails from Emeril, with a few changes of our own.
It uses an ingredient we had never heard of, filé powder, also known as gumbo filé. It is an herbal powder made from the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree, native to eastern North America. Powdered sassafras leaves were first used in cooking by the Choctaw Indians of the Southern U.S. When the Cajuns (Acadians) arrived in Southern Louisiana, they began using the spice as a thickener and flavoring in their soups, stews, and gumbos. It was easy enough to locate at our local supermarket, but you could also order online.
The original called for two ham hocks, but luckily the grocery store was out. Luckily?? The butcher steered us toward a better option, a smoked ham butt, which is all meat and has very little fat. Therefore I renamed the recipe to reflect that switch.
And instead of using chicken stock, we incorporated our homemade ham stock which added oodles of additional flavor. The Emeril Essence you can buy online, get at Target, or make your own from the recipe below, which uses mostly seasonings already in your pantry.
Cabbage and Smoked Ham Butt Gumbo
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped
- 1 head Savoy cabbage, julienned
- 2 lbs. smoked ham butt, quartered
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 cups ham stock, preferably homemade
- 3 cups water
- 12 oz. beer
- 1 Tbsp. Emeril’s Essence (see recipe below)
- 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 1 Tbsp. filé powder
- 2 cups cooked white rice
- Combine the oil and flour in a large cast-iron or enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, over medium heat.
- Stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate.
- Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and continue to stir for 4 to 5 minutes, or until wilted.
- Add the cabbage and continue to sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the ham butt quarters, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves. Continue to stir for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the stock, beer and Essence. Stir until the roux mixture and stock are well combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium to low. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours.
- Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat . Stir in the parsley, green onions, and filé powder.
- Remove the bay leaves and ham butt chunks. Shred the ham once cooled enough to handle and place the meat back into the gumbo.
- Serve in deep bowls with the rice.
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
- 2 Tbsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp. black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. onion powder
- 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yields 2/3 cup.
Adapted from an online recipe from Emeril Lagasse