Seafood Gumbo

There are many different types of gumbo, but my favorite has always been seafood gumbo with shrimp, oysters and blue crabs.

It is important to plan ahead when making gumbo. A roux can easily burn, so you have to stir it constantly and can not walk away from it for even a few seconds. For this reason, the vegetables have to be diced prior to making the roux so they will be ready when you need them. A roux can take 30-45 minutes to cook, so you want to be prepared for that as well. I usually make sure I have a cold beer and a TV remote within reach before getting started. It’s not a big problem if you have a kitchen helper, but if you are alone, planning is key.

The way to a rich gumbo flavor is to make your own seafood stock using the shells from the shrimp. It only takes a few minutes to get the stock started, and it cooks while you are making the roux.

Seafood Stock Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stock, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 10 bay leaves
  • 5 quarts water
  • Shells from 2 pounds of shrimp

Seafood Stock Instructions:

Peel the shrimp and set shells aside in a bowl. Add oil to a large pot over medium high heat and add the reserved shrimp shells. Cook, stirring until the shells turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, paprika, rosemary, bay leaves and cook another 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour; strain.

Gumbo Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium green bell peppers, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons file powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3 dashes of hot sauce
  • 8 ounces shucked oysters
  • 5 ounces frozen okra
  • 2 blue crabs, dressed
  • Cooked rice
  • 2 scallions, chopped 

Gumbo Instructions:

1. Dice the onion, celery, green pepper and jalapeno and set aside in a bowl. Keep the vegetables near the cooktop as you will need to add them to the roux.
2. Mince the garlic and measure out all the spices. Set aside in a separate bowl.
3. To make the roux, heat the oil on medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. When the oil is hot, whisk in the flour, stirring constantly with a long-handled whisk.  Cook for 3-4 minutes and then reduce heat to medium. Cook, whisking constantly and slowly until the roux is the color of a dark penny (or even darker) without burning, 30-45 minutes. You will want to reduce the heat gradually as you go to control the cooking process. By the end, the heat will be on low. If at any point the roux becomes spotty, the flour has burned and the roux is unusable. This is why the process takes so long. I tried a Paul Prudhomme technique that cooked the roux quickly on high heat in much less time, but the risk of burning the roux was way too high. Below is the almost finished roux.

4. Add the diced vegetables to the finished roux and stir for 3 minutes.

5. Stir in the garlic, spice mix and hot sauce, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add two-thirds of the strained stock and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot.

6. Start skimming the oil from the top of the gumbo. By the end of the process, the gumbo will release almost all of the oil from the roux. Simmer for 1 hour and continue skimming the oil. If the gumbo still has a strong roux flavor, add the remaining seafood stock.

7. Add blue crabs, shrimp, okra and oysters. Cook for another 15-30 minutes. Serve with steamed rice and top with scallions.

I usually remove the blue crabs from the gumbo prior to serving. I remove the meat from the shells and add it to the top of the bowl of gumbo along with the scallions. This way you can have a good bite of crab without having it get lost in the gumbo.

I adapted this recipe from the cookbook Real Cajun by Donald Link.


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