Creole Seafood Gumbo
A lot of people think they don't like cooked okra because it's slimy. I sympathize, but in gumbo the gelatin okra releases is essential to thickening the dish. If you leave it out, you might need to thicken the gumbo with a little cornstarch just before you serve it.
1 pound shrimp, shell-on (if using peeled shrimp, replace part of water with bottled clam juice)
8 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
3-4 bay leaves
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 pound andouille sausage (or kielbasa), cut into ¾-inch slices
1 cup peanut oil (vegetable oil will do in a pinch)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups okra, cut into half-moons (optional, but important)
2 cups diced tomato (optional)
12 oz. claw crabmeat, picked over
12 oz. crawfish tail meat (see note)
12 oz. shucked oysters in their liquor
Cooked white rice (about ¾ cup per serving)
(Note: crawfish tail meat is available frozen in many supermarkets. If you can't find it or don't want to use it, just add more shrimp and/or crabmeat.)
Make shrimp stock: peel shrimp and place shells into a large soup pot along with water and/or clam juice over high heat; place peeled shrimp back in the refrigerator. When water boils, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.
While shrimp stock simmers, combine spices and set aside. Combine onion, celery and bell pepper in a bowl and keep handy.
Brown the sausage over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet; remove from pan, leaving any fat that renders out, and keep warm. Turn heat to high.
Make a roux: heat oil in the skillet you used to brown the sausage until very hot; dump flour in all at once and whisk vigorously, breaking up any lumps, until the roux is chocolate brown. (note: you can't walk away from this step – whisk continuously.) As soon as the roux reaches the desired color, remove the pan from the heat; dump in the onion, celery, and bell pepper and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture stops sizzling.
Strain shrimp stock and return to pot; add spices. When it reaches a rolling boil, start adding the roux/vegetable mixture by large spoonfuls, stirring between additions until incorporated. When all of the roux mixture is incorporated, lower heat to medium-low and add sausage, crabmeat, okra, and tomato (if using). Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
To finish the gumbo, return it just to a boil and turn off heat. Add shrimp, crawfish, and oysters (including oyster liquor); stir and cover. In about five minutes, the seafood will be perfectly cooked.
To plate the gumbo, mound ¾ cup of rice in a shallow bowl and ladle gumbo around it, being sure to give everyone a mix of seafood. Serve hot with French bread or cornbread.