Rabbit and Alligator Gumbo

rabbit and alligator gumbo recipe

Gumbo has a rich and unique history based on the melting pot of cultures that came together in Louisiana in the the 18th century. French, Spanish, African, and Native American ingredients and techniques all influence the character of this famous dish. Gumbo is a truncation of the African Bantu word for okra ki ngombo, one of gumbo's defining elements.

As with many traditional stews, what went into the pot was based on what was cheap and readily available, and in Louisiana that meant seafood, chicken, sausage, game, and vegetables such as okra peppers and onions were all used in varying proportions depending on the region and season.

Gumbo can be divided into two broad categories Cajun and Creole. Creole gumbo most often consists of seafood, tomatoes, and either filé powder (ground sassafras leaves) or okra as a thickener, and is more popular in the coastal regions. Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux and is spicier, more often using game and chicken as the protein, and is more popular in the interior. Both types can contain sausage, bacon, or ham to enrich the the flavour.

Andouille sausage
Andouille sausage is often used in gumbo recipes and is a coarse pork sausage originating in France.  Cajun andouille is a spicier regional recipe from Louisiana and is made of shank meat and fat, seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper, garlic, and cayenne, then smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane.

In the tradition of using leftovers and whats on hand, I used a couple of rabbits, smoked side bacon and a couple of pounds of alligator meat I kept from a recent event, to make this Cajun style gumbo last week.

rabbit gumbo
First I poached the rabbits for an hour in a court bouillon flavoured with carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves, garlic, and thyme. When the rabbits cooled I shredded the meat off the bone and set aside.

I cut 1cm cubes of the side bacon as well as diced onion, celery and bell peppers.This combination of vegetables in known as then as holy trinity of Cajun cuisine and is based on the refogado used in classic Spanish cooking.
The alligator meat came from my seafood supplier, but it can be found in specialty butchers such as Whitehouse Meats at the St Lawerence Market in Toronto.

rabbit and alligator gumbo

rabbit gumbo adventurefood
cooking the roux
Browning the roux is an important part of the gumbo process and how dark you let it get depends on your tastes and who you talk to. A dark slow cooked roux gives gumbo a distinct nutty flavour. Some people like it browned to the edge of burning, but I prefer a dark caramel colour.

When the roux is the proper colour add the bacon and vegetables to stop the cooking process. Continue to cook the vegetables and bacon until translucent.
I added bay leaves, fresh thyme, Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic seasoning, and chicken stock as well as about two pounds of sliced okra to the stew and let it simmer for half an hour. The raw diced alligator and shredded rabbit were added and simmered for another half hour and the Gumbo was done. I garnished the dish with whole beer battered okra, rice and hot sauce. It was a unique and delicious experience.

rabbit gumbo okra fritter

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