Thursday, January 1, 2009

Seafood and Okra Gumbo with Shrimp, Crab and Oysters

A seafood gumbo made with a dark roux, a rich shrimp stock, the Trinity of vegetables, tomatoes, andouille and shrimp, crab and oysters.
A seafood gumbo made with a dark roux, a rich shrimp stock, the Trinity of vegetables, tomatoes, andouille and shrimp, crab and oysters.

Seafood and Okra Gumbo

Seafood gumbo, made with shrimp, lots of crab, and usually oysters is definitely a Deep South tradition for Christmas. Mama always made her seafood gumbo on Christmas Eve and that was a tradition at our house. We had this yesterday (and of course it only gets better the day after) and oh my gosh... this is so dang good (if I don't say so myself), I can't begin to tell y'all!

Don't get me wrong... we eat plenty of gumbo around here - and plenty of that is shrimp gumbo. But seafood gumbo - meaning one that contains not only shrimp, but oysters and crab too (not chicken!), generally only shows up either at special Sunday Suppers, big events like the Super Bowl, or major holidays like Christmas or New Year's. Even here right on the Gulf of Mexico where crabs are plentiful, buyin' good lump crab at the store already picked, cleaned and steamed is not a cheap venture, and oysters depend on just how the season went. The oysters I used were fresh right out of the Gulf of Mexico and shucked by my paw-in-law himself... so good. Yes, I know. I am such a blessed gal. Let's make some gumbo!

Southern Style Hissy Fit Warning: First, I do want to say one thing about roux, that I've repeated on all of my gumbo posts. Roux can be brought anywhere from very blonde, to light tan for gravies, to peanut butter colored, or more ruddy, like a copper penny, to chocolaty brown, to deep brown, to nearly black - or anywhere in between. Bottom line is that it's really a personal preference and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. A gumbo roux does not have to be nearly black. That's just simply not true. While some chefs may do that, I don't know many who do that in a home kitchen.

For one, it weakens the thickening power of your roux substantially and makes for a very thin gumbo. For another, it's very robust and very strong flavored. For another, it can take a very long time and is easy to burn if you try to rush it with high heat. If you like that kind of bold (or if you're cooking something like wild duck), by all means, take it super dark. Most folks I know don't want that flavor for a simple chicken or seafood gumbo and take the roux anywhere from peanut butter colored to a slightly darker brown. While we are here let me add, if you're gonna put crab in your seafood gumbo, and you want to call it authentic to the Gulf Coast region, it's blue crab. Not snow crab. And not lobster either.

As always with any gumbo, as delicious as it is day 1, it's even better the next day, so make it ahead whenever you can.

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Recipe: Seafood and Okra Gumbo

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 6 to 8 servings

  • 3/4 cup dark oven roux*
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid, chopped up
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama) {affil link}, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 quarts shrimp stock, chicken stock/broth or water
  • 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil (canola, vegetable)
  • 1/2 pound smoked sausage, andouille or ham, chopped (optional)
  • 1 pound sliced okra
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 dozen oysters, undrained
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked through for any shell
  • Hot sauce

Warm the roux over medium high heat in a large heavy bottom pot, stirring constantly.  Add the onion, celery and green pepper to the hot roux, cooking and stirring for about 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and remove the pot from the heat.

Chop the tomatoes, reserving the liquid. I use a pair of kitchen shears to chop them up right in the can. Add the tomatoes to roux mixture and return pot to heat. Add the Cajun seasoning and Old Bay. Stir in the shrimp stock, chicken broth or water; return to a boil, reduce heat to just under medium, and let simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the cooking oil to a separate skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. To that same skillet, add the okra; cook and stir until slightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer from the skillet to the gumbo pot. Add the sausage and cover the pot; continue simmering.

Add the shrimp to the gumbo pot. Cover the pot and continue simmering, about 10 minutes. Add the oysters; simmer another 5 minutes. Pick through the crabmeat checking for any remnants of shells; gently stir the crabmeat into the gumbo, until just heated through.

Serve over hot cooked rice and sprinkle individual bowls with gumbo filé, if desired. Pass a bottle of Tabasco for some extra kick and add some hot, buttered French bread or rolls and a side salad.

Cook's Notes: Gumbo is a dish that only improves with advance preparation, so make it ahead of time if possible. The flavors really need time to settle and mellow. It's always better the next day. Prepare, let cool and skim any accumulated oil off the top before storing. If you don't already have an oven roux made, just combine 3/4 cup each cooking oil and all purpose flour and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until roux reaches a deep, dark color.

Gumbo filé, or filé powder, is a seasoning made from ground sassafras leaves and tastes a bit like savory and thyme mixed together. It is often stirred into gumbo at the end of cooking (but never boiled) to act as a thickener when okra is out of season. Besides thickening it also imparts a unique flavor to the gumbo, so even when using okra I like to sprinkle a little into each serving bowl. Do not add it to the pot if you don’t expect to finish off the gumbo as it does not reheat well and will become stringy.

Creamy Seafood Gumbo: Double the okra, adding half of it, uncooked, with the tomatoes and stock/broth or water for the first simmer. Allow base to thicken, then proceed with recipe.


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Check These Recipes Out Too Y'all!

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Posted by on January 1, 2009

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