Wayne and Cindy Kasa were surprised to find "duck gumbo" on the menu at Clancy's Café in Red Banks, Miss.
"What kind of duck?" Wayne asked.
"Donald Duck," Cindy said.
Neither of them had ever heard of duck gumbo, but that's not uncommon, said Tyler Clancy, the restaurant's owner/chef.
Clancy, who is from Helena, Ark., said a duck gumbo festival with a team competition is held every year the week after Thanksgiving in Stuttgart, Ark. "That's where I got the idea to do duck," he said. "It's so common in Stuttgart. You cross the river and nobody's ever heard of it."
I tried some of Clancy's duck gumbo a while back and fell in love with it. It's rich with just the right amount of spice. The last time I ordered it, I tipped the bowl up and drank the last drop.
"This is my recipe," said Clancy, who added, "I grew up watching Justin Wilson, the Cajun chef, so I knew how to do an authentic gumbo. He used all kinds of meat."
Clancy remembered Wilson using chicken in one of his gumbos, so he decided to substitute duck. "The duck is richer than the chicken."
He told his dad he wanted to make some duck gumbo. "My dad is an avid duck hunter, so there was always duck on hand," he said.
His dad told him, "If you want to take the time to take the feathers off the whole duck, you can use the whole duck."
Instead of wild ducks, Clancy uses farm-raised ducks, which are larger, have more fat and are "not as gamey as the wild duck."
Clancy has made duck gumbo different ways in the past, but at his restaurant, he uses andouille sausage, bell peppers, onion, garlic, celery and seasoning along with the duck. "No okra, no rice. I want the duck to shine." Duck broth is the liquid for the gumbo.
The roux, the "thickening agent," is the most important part of making gumbo, Clancy said. He uses equal parts of fat and flour. "You stir the roux for 45 minutes on low heat. If you burn the roux, the dish is ruined."
Clancy serves rice if you order the duck gumbo as a dinner item, but he serves it by itself if it's an appetizer, so there won't be so much starch. He plans to serve the gumbo "till the weather warms up. We'll have it till spring."
Meanwhile, the Kasas ordered a cup of duck gumbo to share. "I'm a Northerner," said Wayne, who is from Boston, but now lives in Olive Branch. Clam chowder is his deal.
They loved Clancy's gumbo. "I had my first duck today," Wayne said.