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Photo by: Joseph De Leo
When I was growing up, my mother made gumbo every week, usually twice—chicken-filé gumbo on Wednesdays and seafood-okra gumbo on Fridays. Her special touch was sautéeing the okra before adding it to the pot, thereby avoiding the texture problems some people have.
The great truth about gumbo is that no two chefs make it alike. Anybody who tells you that there’s only one right way to make gumbo is nuts. A few points about my version: not all recipes for seafood gumbo call for making a stock, but I always do. Usually I buy a package of “gumbo crabs,” little crabs picked of their big lumps but with enough meat to make a good stock. (These are available in every supermarket’s freezer in Louisiana but maybe not elsewhere.) The remnants of big boiled crabs also work, as do shrimp shells or crawfish shells. Or oyster liquor. Use what’s available to make some kind of shellfish stock.
Also, following the technique of many restaurant chefs, I make the roux separately and add it to the broth well into the process, rather than at the start. My mother (and many other mothers) literally think this is crazy. But that’s how chefs almost always do it.
1. To make the stock: Bring about a gallon (16 cups) of water (including oyster liquor, if available) to a light boil in a large pot. Add all of the remaining stock ingredients. Return to a bare simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Strain the stock into another large pot and discard the solids.
2. To make the gumbo: Heat the oil in a large skillet until the oil shimmers. Add the okra and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Remove the okra and set aside. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery, parsley, and oregano, and sauté until the vegetables are soft. Add the vegetables, including the okra, to the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the Creole seasoning.
3. Meanwhile, make the roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it sizzles. Add the flour and whisk until it changes texture. Shift to a spoon and stir frequently until the roux reaches the desired color. For me, that would be the color of a pecan shell. Remove from the heat and stir in the sliced green onion. Keep stirring because the heat of the roux can still result in burning.
4. Whisk half of the roux into the gumbo. It will rise to the surface and appear not to blend in, but if you keep whisking, it will. Add some of the remaining roux until the color and consistency of the gumbo are the way you want.
5. Simmer the gumbo for about an hour. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Just before serving, add the shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish tails, and/or oysters. Simmer 2-3 minutes, until the seafood is heated through. Serve with cooked long grain rice.
Nutritional information is based on 12 servings, using 2 lbs shrimp and 1lb claw crabmeat, and 1 teaspoon of added salt.
Nutrients per serving (% daily value)