smoked duck and andouille gumbo

i like to read in the bath. as long as i have some Mister Bubble to keep me going, i can read until the water turns cold. i normally don't take bubble baths in the summer, because it's just too damn hot, inside and out. but now with the advent of fall upon us, i've been taking leisurely bubble baths after my afternoon work out. not only does it help soothe the muscles, but it helps quiet my overly active brain.

a week or so ago, when the wind started to blow cold one evening, i hopped into the tub along with The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups: Recipes And Reveries, which actually isn't mine; it belongs to J, who used to live with us in Maryland but i guess it got gobbled up amongst all of my other cookbooks and now it's MINE ALL MINE MUHahaha. (Okay, just kidding J, you can take it back now. but can i borrow your How to Cook Everything book?). so i was flipping through the soup book when i ran across a recipe for smoked duck and andouille gumbo, and since the recipe looked doable, and as we have a smoker, i told myself i'd be making it soon. the boy said it sounded good, and besides, it would give him an excuse to use the smoker. as if he needs an excuse to use the smoker. that smoker has gotten more use than the oven has in the past couple of months.

Gumbo Day turned out to be this past sunday; actually it started saturday night when we quartered the duck and put it in a brine. and by "we" i mean the boy, who's far more handy with a knife than i am.

don't be daunted about cutting up a duck; it's similar in structure to a chicken, so do as you would with a chicken. it's goose that you ought to be afraid of. okay, kidding. don't be afraid to cook a goose, but do be warned that it's got a whole other bone structure than what you're familiar with, and can be a pain in the ass to dissect. but that's for another blog post.

the thing about this particular recipe in the book is that it basically stunk. i read it a couple of times through on sunday morning, and i didn't care for the lack of direction it gave for smoking the duck (the authors assumed you would know how to do this, which fortunately for us we do, but what about anyone else?). and i didn't care for their directions on how to make a stock. not that i need directions on how to make that, and i'm not going to give you any myself but i will direct you to people who do (see further below for links on how to make stock). now i guess you could use canned stock, but then why would you? it's not very often that you get to eat duck - and since you're using the reserved fat to make the glorious roux, why ruin it with oversalted canned stuff from the store? you really have no excuse for this particular recipe. it's already going to take you a good half a day to smoke the duck and do everything else, might as well get up a little earlier and make a day out of it... and this coming from the person who does have some containers of store-bought stock on hand. you can read the pros and cons of using store-bought stock in Ruhlman's manifesto. i do realize that he's right, though. making stock is easy and better for you, as you are controlling the ingredients that go in. it's time consuming, which turns some people off, but that is what days off are for. i'm an advocate of making my own yogurt and absolutely will not buy any at the store, which is kind of the same thing with stock. i ought to make it more often. i have no excuse.

back to the recipe itself. i found the ingredients list shamefully lacking things that will brighten up the gumbo. we ad libbed a bunch at the end, and i (sort of) took notes of what we did so that i could rewrite this thing.

i don't suppose you need a smoker to make this; you could use one of those smoker boxes and put it on your regular grill, keeping an eye on the juice (if gas) or stoking charcoal often. because the thing about smoking is it has to be low and slow. the duck will take you around 2 1/2 hours to smoke (if not more), and that's after it was quartered. if you keep it whole, it will take much longer.

we've found a lot of good duck smoking tips on the web, notably from this source. behold the power of Google. let your fingers do the walking.

Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo
loosely adapted from "The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups: Recipes And Reveries", by David Ansel and Liza Ferneyhough
makes at least 10 good sized servings

for the brine:
1 quart of apple juice
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 cup kosher salt

for the stock:
several chicken carcasses plus whatever bones you salvage from the duck
mirepoix (50 % onion, 25% celery, 25% carrot), chopped up in big hunks
bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, a bay leaf or two, tied up with kitchen string)
a tablespoon or so of peppercorns

for the rest:
1 duck
1 cup flour
2 onions, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced in half lengthwise and then into half-rounds
1 lb okra (you can use frozen, pre-chopped)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
couple tablespoons of thyme, basil, chopped up
dried oregano
several pinches of cayenne
several pinches of white pepper
1/4 cup of hot sauce (such as Texas Pete)
a few dashes of Worcestershire
filé powder
couple cloves of garlic

the night before you're making this, cut the duck up into quarters, saving wings and backbone for stock the next day. cut incisions into the duck fat layer, without piercing the meat (see video on previous post). make a brine by bringing the apple juice, peppercorns, salt to a simmer on the stove for a few minutes. remove from stove and cool the liquid down with many ice cubes. place duck pieces in a tupperware or bowl large enough to house it comfortably, pour the brine over, cover it well and put in the fridge overnight.

the next morning, get yourself some coffee and prepare to make stock. this will take you a while, so start early. i usually start with the largest pot i own, and add two or three carcasses that i've saved from roasting a chicken, which i've dug out of the freezer, and throw in those duck wings and neck from the night before. add mirepoix and bouquet garni, and water to cover. i'm not going to give you a dissertation on how to make stock, because there are several excellent resources out there. a quick Google search pulls up:

- from Simply Recipes

- a video on the Epicurious site - i havent watched it myself yet, since i'm not on the home computer. looks like Bon Appetit has a video on their site as well.

- plus i bet you that some of the French cookbooks on your shelf have directions on how to make stock, so go take a look through them.

turn smoker on and bring it to 225 F. rinse the duck, pat dry with paper towels, and salt and pepper the pieces. place duck in smoker, skin side down with a clean drip pan to catch that all-important fat (you'll be using it later, so it's important that the drip pan is clean). using dry wood chips (we used apple), smoke for 2.5 hours or until the duck reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.

remove duck from the smoker, put it to the side until it's cool enough to pull the meat off. with your hands, shred meat into whatever size pieces you want that look good to you, and set aside until later in the recipe. throw out the layer of fat that remains on the duck. don't throw the bones out; put them straight into the stock you've got going on the stove.

your stock will probably take a few more hours, so keep it on low, skim the scum off the top every once in a while, and go do something productive like paint the guest room... which is what i was supposed to be doing this weekend. anyhoo....

by then, your stock should be ready. strain it, discarding all the solids. put it back on the heat and let it reduce a little bit more.

make roux: strain the reserved duck fat drippings, and add 3/4 cup of it to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. if you don't have 3/4 cup's worth, you can use peanut or canola or vedge oil to make up the rest. immediately add 1 cup of flour and start stirring like mad with a wooden spoon. this next part will take you about an hour (no lie), so make sure you've got a movie going in the background or some music. i wouldnt walk away from a roux, especially one made with such a decadent base. just stir and stir with a wooden spoon. you might have to add a tablespoon or more of flour as you go, if the roux is too liquidy. as the authors state, "you're attempting a controlled burn of the flour".

again, low and slow is the way to go. when in doubt, lower the heat and keep stirring like crazy. you want a dark roux. this will be the final color of the gumbo, so it's important that you get it right. finally, after you've had a Guinness, and when the roux reaches the color you want (preferably a dark lovely caramelly chocolate), add the chopped onion, celery, and peppers. stir to combine thoroughly, ensuring that all the vedge is evenly coated. let this cook for a few minutes, and add the garlic.

move your stock, which is now happily ready, next to your Dutch oven, grab a ladle and get ready to go. slowly add a couple of ladlefuls of stock to the rouxed vedge, and stir. that liquid will be absorbed pretty quickly. add a little more and stir. basically, add as much liquid as you feel comfortable with, to get the consistency you want. keep in mind that once you add the okra, it will get even thicker. it's hard to gauge how much stock you'll need; you will need a lot, but you'll probably end up with extra, which is never a bad thing. just freeze it for another use.

stir in the andouille, okra, tomato paste, herbs, cayenne, filé, hot sauce (to taste - we used about a quarter cup), whatever else you're using. i don't give exact measurements on some of these ingredients, as i tend to like things a bit on the hot side, so add and taste, see how you like it. add salt (to taste - sort of. you dont want to oversalt it, yet you still have another 15 mn of simmering to go, so err on the undersalty side. you can always add more but can't subtract).

Simmer for 15 more minutes. serve over rice with some crusty bread hunks. and then go wash the clothes you wore all day and take a shower, because you're guaranteed to be smelling like a smoked piece of meat yourself.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the original recipe didn’t require a brine, and called for steaming the duck first before smoking it. I think a brine is vital for this – after all, you’ll be smoking the duck, which could possibly dry it out. Brining brings moisture to the meat. Also, the idea behind smoking it is cooking it slowly via smoke. If you make the mistake of steaming the duck first, the chances of you getting meat that is completely permeated with lovely smoke flavor is kinda slim.

I did say I had problems with the recipe, and these are just a few of the changes we made.


charcuteire said…
Making stock is not time consuming, it simply takes a long interval of time. Leaving plenty of that interval to not paint the bedroom.

I make my own andouille (good old Ruhlman and Polcyn) as well.
french tart said…
you know, i wondered how much better this would be with homemade andouille, as i'm sure it would bring it to a whole new happy gastronomic level. not only that (and i'm sure i'm not saying anything you havent heard or thought of before) when you're eating something, like sausage, that you've made with your own two hands, it tastes that much better.
charcuteire said…
I know exactly what is in it. Pork, spices and hickory smoke.

My wife gave me Charcuterie a couple of years ago and really likes the ability to tell me she will need X pounds of Y sausage in a couple of weeks.

Kiliebase, smoked andouille, a chorizo and bratwurst are almost always in the freezer, but I've made most of the sausages in that book at this point.

I also dry cure ham and bacon. She is very happy to have a virtually unlimited supply of both proscuitto and pancetta.
french tart said…
oh man. can i place my christmas order now? :) jk

your wife is a lucky woman.
charcuteire said…
If you have ever tracked down my wife's dinner menu postings: you would understand why I do everything I can to aid and abet her in kitchen activities.
RuggerDucky said…
I haven't made an andouille yet, but my forays into some lamb and venison sausages have met with much approval by the wife. But I'm totally jealous of anyone that has a place they can safely make proscuitto.

By the same token, I'm sad to have moved away from Salumi in me, best cured meats in the country, bar none. Actually founded and owned by Mario Batali's dad--it was his post Boeing retirement dream.

So did you guys get a pellet smoker? Something that you're actually able to hold it steady at that temp? I've always gone the much longer slower temp smoking routes, but that's from too many years of salmon smoking rubbing off...
charcuteire said…
I've both an offset smoker that sits on the ridge behind my house, pictures of it on my blog.

And a cold smoker that uses sawdust. The cold smoker also works as a vermin free place to hang a ham until the basement gets above 60, about May 1. This year I bought a wine cooler and am planing on hanging a ham for two years.

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