If you told me that I was only allowed to cook one dish for the rest of my life what would it be? The answer for me is simple: Gumbo.
Gumbo is probably the most versatile dish out there; no other dish can be so easily modified for every type of wild game. At its most basic. there are are peppers, onion, and celery with a dark nutty roux. After that you can pretty much add whatever you want to it.
Let’s start with the roux, a roux is nothing more that flour and oil. What kind of oil is a matter of personal preference. Many like to use peanut oil or butter. I like to use canola oil, but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is how dark you want your roux to be.
When you mix you flour and oil and heat it up it will start out like a thick paste. That paste then turns into a light blonde, slightly less thick paste. If all you want to do is thicken stock to make a gravy or soup base, then this is all the further you need to go.
However, if you want make a darker, richer stew or gumbo then you should probably crack a beer or three because you’re going to be here for awhile. The longer you cook a roux, the darker it will get – but you can’t just leave a roux on the stove and walk away It has to be stirred frequently or it will burn and ruin the flavor.
If you want to make a dark, chocolate-colored roux, you might be standing over the stove for an hour or more. For this gumbo I stirred my roux until it was the color of peanut butter and that took about 45 minutes. You might be tempted to turn the heat up high and try to rush the process but that usually ends with a burnt roux.
Medium-low heat with frequent stirring is the way to go. Once you have your roux made the rest of this dish is a piece of cake. You will need the holy trinity of cajun cooking: onions, celery and peppers. I use a 4-1-1 ratio of 4 cups of onions to 1 cup each of celery and green peppers. Depending on your tastes, you can add more or less of each and as much garlic as you want. I used six cloves.
What you add to your gumbo is also a matter of personal preference. I have made gumbo with chicken and sausage and I have also made gumbo with muskrat and beaver. If you’re using small game of any type of game bird, break them down into quarters and use the whole quarter with the bones in. You will get a better product in the end. If you’re using venison, elk or any other big game animal, just cube the meat up into 2-inch pieces. The cooking time for your gumbo is about two hours on a low simmer and any meat you put in will be fall-off-the-bone tender by the time it’s done.
Rabbit and Squirrel Gumbo
- 1 rabbit, cut into pieces
- 1 squirrel, cut into pieces
- 2 cups flour
- 1-1/4 cup oil
- 4 cups chopped onions
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 6 cloves minced garlic
- 4 quarts wild game stock or chicken stock
- 1 can (10 oz) Ro-Tel tomatoes
- 1 pound andouille sausage cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups smoked ham cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 tablespoon Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (or your favorite cajun spice mix)
- 2 cups chopped green onions
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
In a large skillet, add some oil and start browning the sausage and the rabbit and squirrel pieces. The game meat doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through just a nice brown on the outside. Cut vegetables into a ¼-inch dice and have ready to go.
Start making your roux. Add the flour and oil to a large stock pot and stir over medium-low heat until it reaches a peanut butter color. You can go darker if you would like. Once the roux reaches the color you want, add the onion, celery, pepper, garlic, and the cajun seasoning. Cook for 5 minutes. After five minutes, add all of the meats, herbs and tomatoes. Add the stock. Stir to combine and then bring back up to a boil.
Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer for two hours or until the meat is tender. Taste your gumbo and season as desired.
Add the green onions and parsley, cover and simmer five minutes.
Serve this with cooked white rice and your favorite hot sauce. I don’t add a lot of heat to the gumbo so that everyone can add their own.
Serves 10-12 people.