|The Gumbo Shop's
Seafood Okra Gumbo
Gumbo has come to be one of the best examples of the multicultural melting pot that has made New Orleans what it is. It can be described as a type of stew served over rice, but locals would argue that gumbo is almost its own food group. The base seasonings – sassafras and bay leaves – were introduced to settlers by Native Americans. Another important contribution to the creation of gumbo was okra, a vegetable brought over by West African slaves, which both seasons and thickens soup stocks. Gumbo is said to have gotten its name from the West African name for okra – kimgombo. Gumbo went on to be adapted over time, and as most locals will tell you, there is no set recipe for the perfect gumbo. Everyone has his or her own way of making it from adding seafood instead of chicken or sausage instead of ham – its all a matter of personal preference and, of course, in matters of taste, there is no dispute.
Most traditional restaurants in the city offer some kind of gumbo – seafood, chicken and andouille sausage, or otherwise. In fact, many restaurants offer multiple types of gumbo, including specialty gumbos.
Famed chef Paul Prudhomme created "Gumbo Ya-Ya" which can now be found at Mr. B's Bistro in the French Quarter is a local favorite. Also stop in at The Gumbo Shop also in the French Quarter and try their famous seafood okra gumbo. At Liuzza's by the Track, in Mid-City near the Fairgrounds Racetrack, you can have the best of both worlds: chicken, sausage and shrimp all in one!
Make sure you have a cup or two of at least one type of gumbo while in New Orleans, then you can return home and perfect your own style. Until then, here are two recipes to help you out.
Mr. B's Gumbo Ya-Ya Recipe
- 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 red bell peppers, in medium dice
- 2 green bell peppers, in medium dice
- 2 celery stalks, in medium dice
- 1 ¼ gallon (20 cups) chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into ¼ inch-thick slices
- 3 ½ lb. chicken, roasted and boned
- hot sauce to taste
- boiled rice as accompaniment
In a 12-quart stockpot melt butter over moderately low heat. Gradually add a third of the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add a third more flour and sit constantly 30 seconds. Add remaining third of flour and stir constantly 30 seconds. Continue to cook roux, stirring constantly, until it is the color of dark mahogany, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Add bell peppers and stir constantly 30 seconds. Add onions and celery and stir constantly 30 seconds. Add the stock to roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add all remaining ingredients except chicken, rice, and hot sauce and bring to boil. Simmer gumbo, uncovered, 45 minutes, skimming off any fat and stirring occasionally. Add chicken and simmer 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning with hot sauce. Serve over rice.
This recipe yields about 6 quarts, but gumbo freezes well and can be thawed out later.
The Gumbo Shop's Seafood Okra Gumbo Recipe
- 2 lbs fresh or frozen shrimp, head on about 40-50 count per pound
- 2 small blue crabs, fresh or frozen
- 3 quarts water 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 quart fresh or frozen okra, sliced into ½ inch rounds
- 2/3 cup cooking oil
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 teaspoon garlic, finely shopped
- 1 16oz can chopped tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Peel and de-vein the shrimp, and set aside, covered in the refrigerator. Rinse the shrimp shells and heads, place in a non-reactive stock pot along with 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes to make a stock. Strain, discard the shells and heads and set the stock aside. meanwhile, wash the crabs well under running water, pace in a non-reactive pot with 1 quart of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain, reserving stock and crabs. When the crabs are cool enough to handle, snap both claws off then break the body in half. Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil, add the okra and sauté over medium high heat for about 10 – 15 minutes or until all the "ropiness" is gone. The step may take a little longer if fresh okra is used.
Place the 2/3 cup oil in large (8 quart) heavy bottomed Dutch over type pot. Add the flour and, over a medium high fire make a dark brown roux. As soon as the proper color is achieved, add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally until tender. During this process, allow the vegetables to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, then scrape the bottom with a metal spoon or spatula. This allows some of the natural sugars in the onions to caramelize, rendering great depth of flavor.
When the seasoning vegetables are tender, add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and the three peppers and a little salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, repeating the stick and scrape process with the tomatoes. Add the sautéed okra and cook for 10 more minutes.
Add the crab stock and half of the shrimp stock to the pot. Stirring constantly, bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat a bit, partially cover and simmer for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. If the gumbo appears too thick, add more stock to adjust. Add salt to taste and adjust the pepper if desired. Add the broken crabs and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the peeled shrimp, return to a boil and simmer until the shrimp are firm and pink, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from heat.
Serve in large bowls over steamed rice. This recipe will yield about six entrees or ten to twelve appetizers.