I’m a seafood gumbo snob! I look for two things: first is a deep shellfish flavor, which I accomplish by allowing quartered crabs to cook for at least 45 minutes before I even think of adding any other seafood. Second, I’m looking for the seafood—shrimp, crabmeat, and oysters—to be perfectly tender (not overcooked) precisely as the gumbo is served. So, plan ahead and add the seafood accordingly.
1 cup canola oil
1 cup flour
2 large onions, diced
6 jumbo blue crabs, each cut into 4 pieces
1 pound spicy smoked sausage links, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced fresh okra
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
3 quarts Basic Shellfish Stock (recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1 pound medium Louisiana or wild American shrimp
1 cup shucked oysters
1 cup lump crabmeat
1 cup minced green onions
Freshly ground black pepper
Basic Creole Spices (recipe below)
4–6 cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice
Make a roux by heating the oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue whisking until the roux takes on a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the roux is a rich dark brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the blue crabs and smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, garlic, and okra. Increase the heat to moderate and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the thyme, Shellfish Stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off any fat from the surface of the gumbo.
Add the shrimp, oysters, crabmeat, and green onions to the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, Creole Spices, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. Serve in bowls over rice.
BASIC CREOLE SPICES
Makes ½ cup
Using this spice blend is truly the easiest way to consistently achieve the flavors I grew up with. Once made, the spices will last for six months in an airtight container.
2 tablespoons celery salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Mix together the celery salt, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and allspice in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and store.
Basic Shellfish Stock
Makes 6 cups
1/4 cup canola oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 leek, white part, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound shells from shrimp, blue crab, crawfish, or lobster
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Heat the canola oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Cook the onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and garlic, stirring often, until they are soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.
Add the shells, the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and 3 quarts water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, until the stock has reduced by half, about 2 hours.
Strain through a fine sieve into a container with a cover. Allow the stock to cool, cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Freeze the stock in small batches to use later.
—From My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing