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20th Anniversary Gumbo

6 partially deboned quail
6 slices andouille
6 oysters, poached
3 tiger prawns or jumbo white shrimp
12 Tbsp. white rice, cooked
pinch of filé powder
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. minced red bell pepper
1 Tbsp. minced yellow bell pepper
1 Tbsp. snipped chives
to taste, salt and black pepper

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 cups diced onions
1 cup diced celery
½ cup diced bell pepper
¼ cup minced garlic
1 cup sliced oyster mushrooms
½ cup diced tasso
2 ½ quarts chicken stock
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
to taste, salt and pepper
1 cup sliced green onions
½ cup chopped parsley
6 oz. chilled vodka, optionalDIRECTIONS:Under cold running water, rinse deboned quail with leg and wing bones intact (select larger Pharoh Quail for this dish); drain well. Season birds inside and out using salt and black pepper. Set aside. Dehead, peel, and devein tiger prawns and slice tails lengthwise; set aside. In a mixing bowl, season rice to taste with salt, pepper, and filé powder, then add parsley, bell peppers, and chives. Blend well to incorporate seasonings. Open the cavity of each quail and begin by stuffing one Tbsp. of seasoned rice into the cavity, followed with one slice of andouille, one oyster, and one half of a tiger prawn. Add a second spoon of the seasoned rice into the quail to hold the stuffing ingredients in place, and skewer with a toothpick. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, cover with clear wrap, and refrigerate. This may be done the day before. In 2-gallon stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add flour and, using a wire whisk, stir constantly until dark brown roux is achieved. Add onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are wilted. Add mushrooms and tasso. Cook 2 additional minutes. Add chicken stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly, until it reaches soup-like consistency. Bring soup to low boil, adding stock as necessary to retain consistency. Reduce heat to simmer, and add thyme, basil, and oregano. Cook 45 minutes, then season to taste using salt, pepper, green onions, and parsley. Simmer 10 additional minutes. Remove from heat and strain the flavoring ingredients from the gumbo and discard. Return soup to the stock pot.

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 375°F. Place the 6 quails on a large baking sheet and top each quail with one tsp. of vegetable oil. Bake quail 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown, but not overcooked. Place the 6 quails gently into the gumbo stock. Bring to a low simmer and cook 15 minutes. Serve one quail in center of a deep soup bowl, cover with a 6-ounce ladle of gumbo. As guests cut into the deboned quail, the gumbo ingredients-rice, oyster, andouille, and seasonings-will fall into the stock, further flavoring the soup.SERVINGS:2 servingsFrom:Chef John Folse, Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant, Donaldsonville, La.