Accidental Grace at Dooky Chase

I didn’t realize it was Maundy Thursday when I stopped at Dooky Chase’s for fried chicken. It was one of our first trips to New Orleans, and I was determined to try as many of the city’s iconic foods as I could. I had an extra hour, it was around lunchtime, and I was a few blocks away.

The place was packed. As I squeezed into the bar to order some chicken to go, I saw the specials board inked with the magic words, “gumbo z’herbes.”  It suddenly clicked that Easter was a few days away, but all I really cared about was getting some of this special once-a-year gumbo, made with a garden’s worth of leafy greens. And I got the chicken, too.

I’d read about Leah Chase’s famous green gumbo, and it had inspired me to make a simple gumbo with greens. I’d always thought gumbo z’herbes was a Lenten dish made without meat, but when I tucked into the bowl I’d brought home I found chunks of tender pork and smoked sausage. Miss Leah’s version calls for several pounds of meat, and I learned it’s eaten on the Thursday before Good Friday to prepare the faithful for a day without meat. A committed heathen, I like it any day of the week during gumbo season.

We’ve still got months of cold, damp weather ahead, perfect for a bowl of something hot & spicy. While my variation makes less than the original from Dooky Chase’s, it’ll still enough feed a small crowd, so invite some friends and have a party. There are a few steps and it takes awhile, so start early or make it a day or two in advance. Click here for my gumbo z’herbes recipe.