February is one of those months where spring seems right around the corner, but it can also be the coldest month of the year, especially if there’s a lot of moisture. For me, cold, wet weather is synonymous with gumbo.
Winter is also the perfect time of the year to hunt cottontails and it’s what I love using here. If you don’t hunt, try and track down farmed rabbits from your local rancher, butcher, or specialty grocery store. They’re one of the most sustainably raised meat animals, have a very low carbon footprint, and offer more flavor than chicken.
Lastly, you’ll see that I make the creole spice blend from scratch. There are very good cajun brands out there, but many use fine, iodized salt. It makes it hard to season gumbo without it becoming overly salty. If you make your own blend you can control the type of salt and how much goes in. Choose a coarse salt, like kosher or sel gris, so it's less salty by volume. This will yield more flavor complexity without the extra sodium.
- 2-3 rabbits
- 6 tbsp. creole spices, divided
- 1 cup oil, clarified butter, or animal fat
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 celery sticks, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp. dried thyme, or a few fresh sprigs
- 2 quarts unsalted chicken stock
- 2 cups sliced okra
- 1 lb. gulf shrimp
- File powder (optional)
- 2 tbsp. kosher, diamond salt, or sel gris
- 1 tbsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. celery seed
- 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. cayenne (reduce for mild, increase for extra spicy)
- 1½ tbsp. dried thyme
- 1 tbsp. onion powder
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- White rice
- Green onions, sliced
- Parsley, chopped
- Hot sauce
Also works with
- First, mix all the ingredients together to make the creole spice. This blend yields about ¾ of a cup. You may only use half for this recipe, reserve the rest in an airtight container for future use. This will keep for several weeks or months in the pantry.
- Before you plan to cook, prep and season the meat. Cut each rabbit into six serving pieces (two hind-quarters, two shoulders, and the loin in half) Keep the meat attached to the bone. Season all sides of the meat generously with roughly 3 tablespoons of creole spices. Shake off the excess, you might not use it all. Do this step a few hours and up to a day ahead for best results.
- Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of oil and brown the rabbit pieces on both sides. Take your time and work in batches as needed, don’t overcrowd the pan. Remove the rabbit and set aside.
- Before making the roux, wipe the bottom of the pot out. This is important, especially if the spices have blackened. Add the cup of oil to the pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until mixed and smooth. Reduce the heat to medium-low, or as low as needed to prevent it from turning colors too rapidly. Continuously stir the roux until it darkens to a chocolate brown color, 20 to 30 minutes. Do not let the roux burn. If this happens, toss it out and start over.
- Sprinkle the yellow onions into the roux and saute for a few minutes to soften. The roux will continue to darken. Next add the green bell peppers and celery. Cook for another couple of minutes, then add the garlic. Cook one more minute, or until fragrant.
- Slowly pour in the chicken stock, constantly whisking to ensure there are no lumps. Once all the stock is incorporated, add the thyme and return the meat to the pot. Stir in two tablespoons of creole spices to start with; you can add more later if needed.
- Cook the rabbit at a gentle simmer for roughly three hours or longer until they are just about to fall off the bone. Use tongs and retrieve each piece out of the gumbo. Shred the meat with a fork and discard the bones.
- Return the meat to the pot and add the okra. Cook the okra for about five minutes so that they start to soften.
- Add the shrimp in the last 10 to 15 minutes and simmer until cooked through. They should have a snappy, succulent texture.
- Taste and add one to two more tablespoons of creole spices. You can sprinkle in file powder to help thicken if you wish.
- Serve the gumbo over white rice and garnish with green onions, parsley, or hot sauce.