Recipe: Seafood Gumbo
This post written by Full Circle’s Farm Foodie – Debra Dubief
With all the talk of Mardi Gras, it’s hard to not work up a craving for Cajun food this time of year. I know I always do and every February I make a seafood gumbo although not for any Mardi Gras-specific festivities. Instead I prefer to make it for a gathering of good friends to enjoy while viewing an almost equally flamboyant annual February spectacle: the Academy Awards show. It’s a great choice because everyone has already been thinking about New Orleans and maybe wishing they were there, so they are all really psyched when I whip out a big pot of gumbo for dinner.
Adapted from Saveur
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 ribs celery, trimmed and diced
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 – 2 jalapeno peppers (depending on how hot you like it), seeded and minced
- 8 oz. frozen okra , thawed and cut into 1" pieces
- 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 4 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp liquid crab boil (if you can’t find this, you can find lots of simple recipes for this spice mixture online)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 lb. prawns or medium shrimp, peeled
- 1/2 lb. Dungeness crabmeat, picked over for stray shell pieces
- 1 pint shucked oysters, coarsely chopped (strain oyster liquor into chicken stock)
- 1 Tbsp filé powder
- Steamed rice and crusty bread for serving
- In a large, heavy bottomed pot make the roux. Melt butter with olive oil over medium-low heat, add flour and cook, stirring often, until smooth caramel colored, about 30 minutes. For an easy oven-cooked roux check out this post. Add celery, onions, peppers, okra, oregano, thyme, and bay leaves, and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the stock, diced tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste and crab boil and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Note: At this point you can remove from heat and set aside until you’re just about ready to serve.
- Whisk filé powder into 1/3 cup water, then into gumbo. Taste for seasoning and if you like it really spicy, feel free to add some hot pepper sauce or a little ground cayenne. Add shrimp and oysters, simmer 3-5 minutes until just cooked through, then stir in crab. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve gumbo over rice, with fresh, crusty bread.
Much of the cooking involved can be done in advance, which affords me plenty of opportunity to duck into the living room and catch the festivities. The last minute pulling together can easily be covered during the commercials or (with apologies to my accounting friends) during the tedious explanation of the super secure, secret tallying process the Academy’s accounting firm meticulously goes through. You know they have to stretch that one out to give everyone a chance to hit the bar!
The trickiest part of this recipe is making the roux, which isn’t that hard but requires your attendance in the kitchen. Since it’s basically the soul of the gumbo be sure to get it nice and toasty. After that, the rest is open to variation and interpretation. In addition to the roux, okra and filé powder (made from ground sassafras leaves) are the classic thickeners of this stew. I’m not sure how a summer crop like okra came to be an ingredient in such a quintessentially winter dish, but this is one of the few frozen vegetables I don’t mind and is pretty easy to find in most stores. If you’re wishing you had some in your freezer now, I’m with you and am determined to find fresh, organic okra for the box this summer so we can all have a stash in our freezers next winter!