Recipe from Pel-Freez: Rabbit & Sausage Gumbo

Over on the Home Life blog here on BlogsMonroe.com, Sarah asked an interesting question a couple weeks ago:

Lately my husband and I have been considering raising rabbits as a meat source for our family … I like the idea of raising our own meat as we know how it was cared for, what it was fed, and how it was processed … And there are a ton of recipes out there for rabbit that seem delicious. Care to share your own?

I don’t have any of my own because, up until now, I’ve not cooked rabbit. I’ve eaten plenty, that’s for sure. If you look at the first comment on Sarah’s post, that’s my oldest son there. He and I both really like rabbit, as do his brothers and sister.

But my wife Mary has always reacted negatively to the possibility of eating rabbit … that is, until now.

Last week in response to Sarah’s question, I headed over to the Pel-Freez web site and ordered their free cookbook. As Mary browsed through this booklet a couple days ago, the recipe for Rabbit & Sausage Gumbo caught her eye. Before I could even wrap my brain around the possibility of cooking rabbit, she had half the ingredients for the gumbo in a shopping cart!

Once Mary had almost everything together, I headed out and picked up 3-1/4 pounds of the necessary frozen domestic rabbit.

But there was something missing. The filé powder.

Now this filé powder stuff doesn’t look like much. You don’t even add it until it’s time to serve the dish. But it was likely necessary. Had I ever had it in any of the gumbo I’d eaten here in the Great White North? I haven’t a clue. What the Heck is it anyway, the stuff you scrape off a French file?

Wait, it’s … what?? Ground sassafras leaves? Huh … I’d never heard of such a thing. Sassafras goes in root beer … some tea, but … gumbo? Well, alright, if you insist …

Try to find filé powder, aka Gumbo Filé, in SE Michigan/NW Ohio. Go ahead, I dare ya’.

Yesterday morning I was on the road over two hours looking for filé powder. I’d discovered Zatarain’s makes some so that’s the one I went looking for. I went to two Kroger’s, a GFS Marketplace, Lee William’s House of Meats, The Anderson’s … Staff at these stores kinda looked at me funny (I would have too), and tried to even correct me … “filet powder?” … “phyllo powder?” … “flea powder?” … yeah, sure, I put flea powder in my gumbo, don’t you??

So I’m wandering through the Sofo Foods store in north Toledo wondering why the hey I’m wandering through an Italian food supplier’s shop looking for something Creole-specific, when I suddenly stopped.

At the bottom of this page someone had written:

**Update** I recently noticed a container of Tony Chachere’s Filé powder at the store and picked some up. It’s the real deal, pure Sassafras, just like my homemade. Highly recommended!

Well I’ll be fo-shizzled. That’s exactly what I was staring at! Tony Chachere’s Gumbo Filé, in Sofo Foods in north Toledo. Who woulda thunk it??

After grabbing the Tony Chachere’s brand and heading up M-24 back toward Michigan, I had this crazy thought. Right there, south of the state line is The Fish Market I blogged about late last week. I had this thought, that maybe I should make some seafood gumbo at some point. I mean, there was enough filé powder there for …

D’OH!!!

I hit the brakes, parked the van and headed into The Fish Market. Steve Gale was behind the counter, and I asked if he had any filé powder. “Sure do, it’s right there”, he said, pointing at some glass jars on the counter.

I really need to not do these kinds of funky ingredient searches before ingesting enough caffeine for the day …

This evening as Mary tried this dish she just fell in love with it. She actually said, “Honey I get the feeling this is going to become one of my favorites, something I ask you to make.” Sounds good to me! This stuff is nice and chunky, the veggies al denté, the rabbit nice and tender, a spot of heat from the cayenne, and the amazing smell and flavor of sassafras, all rolled into one seriously-nice dish.

Mary didn’t like the thought of eating rabbit. She’s had this, and wants more, as do I. If you’re leary of trying rabbit for whatever reason, here’s where to start enjoying it.

That is, after you track down the danged filé powder …

Special thanks to the kind folks at Pel-Freez Rabbit Meat, Inc. for their express permission for me to post their recipe here at Luna Pier Cook.

Rabbit and Sausage Gumbo
From “Recipes from Around The World: Rabbit, An International Delicacy”
Used with permission of
Pel-Freez Rabbit Meat, Inc., Rogers, Arkansas

2-1/2 to 3 lbs Pel-Freeze Rabbit, thawed
6 cups water
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
6 oz Kielbasa (or other smoked sausage) cut in 1/2 ” pieces
1/2 lb okra, cut in slices
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 16 oz can peeled tomatoes
2 tsp filé powder

In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, simmer rabbit, salt and pepper in water for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Remove rabbit from broth and let cool. Remove meat from bone in large pieces and return meat to broth in pan. In a skillet, heat oil. Sauté onion, pepper, celery and garlic for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add sausage, okra, cayenne, thyme and bay leaf. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes. Add vegetable mixture and tomatoes to rabbit. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in filé the last few minutes before serving. Serve over rice with a green salad and crusty French bread. Serves 4 to 6. Gumbo can be frozen, but filé should not be added until just before serving.

11 Comments

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  1. Dave…did you REALLY say “Well I’ll be fo-shizzled”….That’s Funny!!!!

  2. Sounds like the driving desire to make this recipe sure paid off! You & Mary make a great team 🙂 Beautiful photo, too.

  3. Dave:

    If you want some real Louisianna andouille for the gumbo, look me up. Send me a PM through the Monroe News Forum.

    Rabbit and andouille are two flavors that are common in many LA recipes. You can find in gumbo, jambalaya, fricassee and grilled. Sorta like peas and carrots.

    On the file’, the tradition is that the leaves are only picked at midnight on the day of Assumption (August 15). That is the the traditional day recognized as the start of the grande derangement of the Acadians from Acadie (modern Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) and scattered to the winds by the British in 1755. Eventually landing at St. Martins LA and incorporating the cooking traditions of the native Houma indians and the Spanish settlers.

    Tony Chachere’s is among the best commercially available– but in the cajun parishes you can find road side stands selling ‘the good stuff’. C’est bon Dave!

    peace,
    Griff

  4. Yeah, J has a line on bunnies and loves cooking them up. Me, well, not so much. I can’t get past the fact that they’re little hopping bunnies, not all that far off from our cats and I don’t want to eat our cats. Maybe someday I will.
    He uses rabbits in the specials at the restaurant sometimes. I’ll let you guys know if he’s planning a rabbity meal anytime soon. Last time he made some sort of braised dish with lavender tea and a ton of other things and swore it tasted like KFC.

  5. “… not all that far off from our cats and I don’t want to eat our cats. Maybe someday I will.” Wait … what??? 😉

    Yeah, I know that’s not what you meant. 😀

    We’d love to head down there and have something J’s specifically created. Yes please, keep us posted!

  6. Oh, no, I meant that as in eat the cats. A little twisted humor. Perhaps too twisted. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ll ever want to eat my cats. But maybe some bunnies. What’s weird is that someone just delivered some literature about eating animals to my desk about five seconds ago. Did you have something to do with this? I’m going to blog about it right now.

  7. Great recipe but where did you get the rabbit? I can’t find a place to buy rabbit anywhere.

  8. @Dean, Pel-Freeze rabbit can be found in a lot of higher-end grocery stores. For example, in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area I get it at one of the six Hiller’s locations. Butchers sometimes have fresh frozen rabbit. In the Columbus and Toledo areas you’ll want to go to House Of Meats. Finally, just Googling “rabbit meat” will get a ton of hits … add your location to the search and you may find local farms you can buy from directly.

  9. Look for locally raised rabbits in the newspaper or even in those “free ad” papers…I raise rabbits and sell both live and processed to individuals…I’m in Central Va though! No luck what so ever finding rabbit in our local Kroger’s or Food Lion. If you have a farmers market in your area those folks may have some contacts…That is how I sell some of my rabbit. To be honest – we eat a lot of rabbit ourselves. There is not much market for domestic rabbit meat.

    Take care, Denise

  10. Thanks for the recipe! I like rabbit sausage gumbo a lot! The pic looks so yummy , that I am actually getting hungry while writing this comment!

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