When it comes to Cajun roots cooking, my Smoked Rabbit Gumbo is as deep-rooted as it gets. I love how the spicy flavors mingle with the hardwood smoke in the rich meat of rabbit to create a gumbo that will humble even the most experienced Cajun cook. It is an exceptional and memorable dish, and one that I owe to a chance meeting with a new and valued friend.
Except for the heady aroma of burning oak, pecan, and hickory hardwoods, Duos Cajun Corner in Nuba, Louisiana is the type of place you might drive by a hundred times without ever thinking it holds a culinary secret. This outpost of gasoline, cigarettes, and live bait is the source of some of the tastiest smoked meats in Acadiana.
When Jean Duos unlatches his padlocked shed, the smoke cascades out the door and reveals row after row of farm-raised rabbits hanging from hooks attached to the metal rafters. Long strands of tangled andouille links along with another row of whole ducks dangle along the full length of the room. This is Professor Duos’ smoky shrine of enlightenment.
Smokehouse culture has a pervasive influence on the cooking of Acadiana. It seems that almost every dish has at least one ingredient that adds an unmistakable smoky depth to the pot. These smoked meats are a specialty of the northern region of Acadiana. Specifically, St. Landry and Evangeline Parishes have a sausage-making and smokehouse tradition that turns out incredible examples of the art form. Turkey necks, deer sausage, pig tails, chaudin/ponce, beef tongue, and many other cuts are much sought after by local cooks.
But, smoked rabbit is why I am here to see Jean Duos. After removing the lapin from the smokehouse hangers, I loaded up on sausage and a small bag of cracklins for the ride home.
Once in my kitchen, it’s a simple task to dismantle these rabbits into serving-size pieces. An 8-inch chef’s knife (I use a Shun) is the main tool, but a heavy cleaver comes in handy to split the bony saddle portion. I cut a whole rabbit into six portions: two hindquarters, two foreleg portions, and I split the mid-section saddle (loins) in half. In my black pot cooking method, it is not necessary to remove the rib cage from the saddle; after a two-hour simmer in a roux-infused stock, these smoked rabbit pieces are rendered fork tender.
It’s gumbo-making time and, as always, first you make a roux or optionally, open a jar. Jarred roux has revolutionized gumbo making and has led to innovative thinking on the dish since convenience leads to experimentation. I still believe in the art of roux making and my wife Roxanne is still the queen. So, if you want to make a scratch roux, I am most proud. Or give us a shout to buy Rox’s Roux already jarred for you.
So, what could be better than a steaming bowl of smoked rabbit gumbo?
The second bowl.
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- ½ cup diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced tasso or smoked ham
- 3 cups smoked pork sausage, cut crosswise into bite-size pieces
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1¼ cup dark roux, see recipe here
- 10 cups dark chicken stock, see recipe here
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 whole smoked rabbits, cut into large pieces
- Filé powder
- 1 cup diced green onion tops
- 8 cups cooked Louisiana long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- In a large cast-iron pot with a lid over medium-high heat, add the oil. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery. Sauté all the chopped vegetables until tender, about 5 minutes. Add sausage and continue to sauté. Add parsley, garlic and rosemary sprigs. Add roux and dark chicken stock and stir to combine. Season with cayenne and a dash of hot sauce. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and taste the gumbo adding salt and pepper to taste. Add the rabbit pieces. Cover and let simmer for 2 hours longer.
- The roux will make this gumbo thick and rich, but not like a stew. If it is too thick, add more stock or water to thin it out to a bisque-like consistency. Remove the rosemary stems, sample the gumbo and correct the seasoning to taste.
- Serve the gumbo over rice with a sprinkling of diced green onion tops and a sprinkle of filé powder.
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