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Nov. 27, 2019

Jim Harris

Cook Up a World Championship Duck Gumbo

Dozens of duck gumbo cooking teams have been converging on Stuttgart every Thanksgiving weekend for the annual World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook-off since the 1980s. The contest has grown so popular, not only with the teams but with the thousands of visitors who enjoy the Mardi Gras-like party that surrounds the gumbo event, that it’s moved over the years from cramped quarters at the old armory to gigantic tents on the grounds of Producers Rice Mill off Park Avenue and just south of U.S. Highway 79. The event of Stuttgart’s annual Wings over the Prairie Festival, which includes the Worlds Championship Duck Calling Contest on Main Street.

The Gumbo Cook-off is set for Saturday, Nov. 30. Attendees must be 21 years old and the admission fee to sample the 55 or so gumbo offerings is $20. Beer and soft drinks are available for purchase. Doors open at 11 a.m., the final judging is at 3 p.m., and the event wraps up at around 5 p.m. The duck-calling contest, in its 84th year, will conclude Saturday night downtown, and all those events on Main Street are free to attend.

Back in November 2016, we featured the event and the previous year’s winning recipe from the contest, provided by members of the Drakes Landing gumbo cooking team. Just in case you want to impress your family or friends during this holiday weekend, we dip back into the archives to rerun that recipe again:

(For full disclosure, the writer of this feature is the older brother of one of the team members and has known the other members for years, and this year he’s been invited to pinch-hit on the team for one of the members who is sidelined). Drakes Landing’s team, which has won the world championship three times in 27 years of entering, takes its name from a 94-year-old hunting club in Arkansas County (again, full disclosure, the family of this writer has held a membership in that club since the 1970s and hunted there as guests for many years previous to that). Kelly Box of Stuttgart is the lone member of the team to have participated in every duck gumbo they have entered.

For a complete schedule of events at the Wings Over the Prairie Festival, visit the website at http://www.stuttgartarkansas.org/schedule-of-events.html.

Also, every issue of Arkansas Wildlife has a cooking feature with a great recipe to try out. To subscribe to Arkansas Wildlife magazine or to check out previous issues, visit our website at www.agfc.com/arkansaswildlifenews.

 

DRAKES LANDING DUCK GUMBO

6-8 large whole ducks deboned
6 white onions
6 stalks of celery
6 cloves of chopped garlic
4 bell peppers
3 lbs. andouille sausage sliced
2 lbs. peeled crayfish washed and drained
2 cups flour
1 cup bacon grease
1/3 cup of Slap Ya Mama seasoning
White rice

Reserve:

4 carrots
3 white onions
5-6 whole cloves of garlic
4 stalks of celery
¼ cup of peppercorns
3-4 bay leaves
¼ cup salt
¼ cup Slap Ya Mama seasoning
1/2 Tbsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
¼ cup Worcestershire
1.5 Tbsp thyme

Smoking: Smoke ducks over low heat, heavy smoke for 1.5 hours. The duck must still be rare. Pecan or hickory is the best wood to use.

Reserve: In a large pot, place the ducks with all the ingredients and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer under medium heat until the legs of the ducks begin to separate. Remove the ducks and allow to cool, then debone. Drain the liquid, strain out the solids, and allow to cool. You will need about 1.5 gallons of reserve.

Gumbo: Chop all the vegetables and separate by half. Take about a half-gallon of reserve and begin to warm over medium heat, but do not bring to a boil.

Roux: In a large cast iron skillet combine the flour and bacon grease and make a roux. The color of the roux should be a dark brown. Once you have reached the desired color (this can take up to thirty minutes depending how hot your skillet is) turn off the heat and add half the vegetables. Once they have begun to caramelize (usually 3-4 minutes) add the seasoning. Continue to stir the vegetables until the pan begins to cool down. Allow the vegetables to sit in the skillet until tender. After about 20 minutes, slowly add this mixture to the warmed reserve, stirring constantly.

Once the roux has been blended into the reserve, add the rest of the ingredients and add the remaining reserve until reaching desired thickness, then bring to boil. Add seasonings (salt, pepper, and cayenne) to taste from this point and simmer 2 hours. Serve over rice.
Recipe provided by Stephen Harris and Kyle Browning.