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Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo
Gumbo is the name given to a wide array of rich soups served throughout the coastal South. Some are thickened with okra, some are thickened with a roux, a cooked mixture of fat and flour, and others by the addition of filé (sassafras) powder. This version uses a combination of both okra and roux. In New Orleans and bayou country, the stockpot is generally filled with shellfish, while the prairie Cajuns prefer a hearty mix of chicken and smoked sausage. Both types of gumbo, however, are always served over steamed rice, along with plenty of hot French bread or corn bread.

Ingredients:

For the stock:

  • 2 1/2 lb. shrimp, with heads attached
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 8 cups water

For the gumbo:

  • 1/2 cup corn or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 lb. andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, plus more, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3 cups peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb. okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 12 oysters, shucked with their liquor (optional)
  • 1/2 lb. lump crabmeat
  • 6 green onions, white and green portions, chopped
  • Steamed white rice for serving

Directions:

To make the stock, peel and devein the shrimp and remove the heads; reserve the shells and heads. Place the shrimp in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. Rinse the shells and heads with cold water, drain in a colander and transfer to a large stockpot. Add the onion, garlic, celery and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids. You will need 6 cups stock; add more water, if needed. Return the stock to the pot and keep warm until ready to use.

To make the gumbo, in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Slowly whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the roux turns a deep brown, 2 to 3 minutes; do not allow it to burn. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, salt and black pepper and stir to coat evenly. Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned and warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, the 1/4 tsp. cayenne and the thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, okra and bay leaves and stir to combine.

Slowly add the stock, stirring constantly and scraping up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim the stock occasionally to remove any excess oil.

Add the shrimp and oysters and cook until they turn opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the crabmeat and green onions and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Adjust the seasonings with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Spoon the steamed rice into individual bowls and ladle the gumbo on top. Serves 8 to 12.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, New Orleans, by Constance Snow (Oxmoor House, 2005).