We consume quite a bit of gumbo in my family, so its only natural that I would judge the Sandestin Gumbo Festival now in its 29th year. It has become one of my favorite winter events in South Walton.
There is nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of seafood, or chicken & sausage gumbo.
Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, we boil the turkey carcass for stock and make a rich and hearty turkey gumbo. But, when temps dip low like they dip last month, and with the kids coming home from college for the weekend, I decided to put together a feel good pot of seafood gumbo.
I think gumbo tastes even better when using fresh ingredients, and when you let it sit overnight.
- 3 pounds medium shrimp, heads on
- 2 pounds claw crab meat, picked for shells
- 4 crab bodies, if available
- 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium head celery, coarsely chopped including leaves
- 2 ½ pounds okra, fresh if available, cut in 1/4 —inch pieces, or frozen cut okra, thawed
- ¾ cup vegetable oil or bacon grease
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 cups shrimp or seafood stock, heated
- 2 to 3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Pepper Hot Sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups green onions, finely chopped
- ½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
De-head, peel, and devein shrimp. Reserve heads and shells for later use. Pick through crabmeat carefully for shells. Refrigerate shrimp and crab until ready for use.
Place chopped onions, bell peppers, celery, and okra in separate bowls. Set aside.
To make the roux, heat vegetable oil or bacon grease in a 10-quart heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, gradually add flour, whisking continuously. Continue to whisk roux , adjusting heat as necessary to keep from burning. This may take 25-35 minutes or until your arm feels like it is about to fall off and the roux is a dark mahogany color. Be careful; if the roux burns, you will have to start all over again!
Carefully add chopped onions to roux and continue stirring with a large wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes. Onions will sizzle and steam when they hit the hot roux so caution is advised. Seasoned gumbo cooks have roux battle scars on one or both arms.
Add bell peppers and continue stirring for another 2 to 3 minutes; add celery continue to stir constantly for another 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture should now resemble a pot of black beans.
Slowly add the heated stock.
Add salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well. Bring gumbo to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour.
Add okra and bring back to a boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat again to maintain a slow simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or a day (until okra has lost its bright green color and is cooked down like the other vegetables). If gumbo gets too thick, add a little water. If too thin, continue to simmer uncovered.
At this point, you can cool the gumbo. It’s always better the day after it has been cooked, although I’ve never had a complaint when I served gumbo the day I made it. Remove from heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Then place pot, uncovered, in an empty sink. Fill the sink with water and ice around the stockpot. Stir gumbo every 15 minutes to move the liquid to facilitate cooling. Gumbo will spoil if cooled improperly. When completely cool, refrigerate it, uncovered, for a couple of hours before placing it in an airtight container.
Reheat gumbo slowly to simmering. Thirty minutes before serving, add green onions, parsley, and lemon juice. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add shrimp and crabmeat. Mix well. Cover and turn off heat. Let sit for at least another 15 minutes while seafood cooks. It will stay hot for a long time. Adjust seasonings and serve over cooked white rice with French bread and butter.
LuLu’s Destin Photo