This version makes no pretense of being definitive gumbo or even using classic gumbo-making techniques. It does include the basic ingredients, the most important being the roux. I have not included okra— despite the fact that the word “gumbo” comes from an African word for okra—or filé, the powder made from dried sassafras leaves, because they can be difficult to find, and you can have a wonderful gumbo without them. I do, however, prefer the glutinous texture that okra or filé gives to a gumbo: If you use filé, add it at the very last second or sprinkle it over the gumbo in the plates. If you have duck livers, chop them up and add them in the last two minutes of cooking, stirring them in well. Serve the gumbo alone, with boiled rice, or with grilled polenta.
Bone the duck so that you have 2 breasts and 2 legs (with thighs). Take the skin off the breast meat and chop the skin finely. Pull the breast meat into ½-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a heavy pot or casserole over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Being very careful not to splash any of the oil on your hands, gradually stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Cook, being careful not to let the flour burn, until the flour is very dark brown, almost black.
Add the onions, green pepper, scallions, celery, bay leaves, and thyme. Mix well and cook for another 10 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and stir well, making sure to include any roux stuck in the corners of the pot. Simmer 2 minutes. Add the duck legs, sausage, and salt to taste. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic, parsley, chilies, and tomato. Simmer until the duck is tender, another 20 to 30 minutes. Add the prawns and duck breast pieces and simmer for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the gumbo sit for 10 minutes. Skim off the fat from the surface of the liquid, correct the seasoning if necessary, and serve.
© 1986 Jeremiah Tower. All rights reserved.