Gumbo

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Mike and I were married on a Friday night and flew into New Orleans right after the reception. We were both still in college so we had to keep our honeymoon short. We packed a great deal of fun into the next three days. We stayed at the Hotel Monteleone which was being remodeled, a sign of how things were going to work for the rest of our married life. We had to walk over plywood boards to get to the front desk but our room was perfect. We saw all of the typical Crescent City sites, ate breakfast at Brennan’s and had an memorable dinner at Broussard’s. Dining was a much more formal affair back then. Mike found himself wearing a loaned jacket at Brennan’s because he had shown up without one. He was so embarrassed and kept apologizing that he should have known better. I just thought that it was funny. 

We also enjoyed some less elegant but nonetheless delectable eateries like Central Grocery, home of the original muffeletta’s, and Cafe Du Monde where we sipped on cafe au lait and devoured those yummy, yummy beignet. We filled our then very thin tummies with gumbo and red beans and rice and poboys. Of course we had to have the requisite hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s. Mike had told me that if someone had a quarter to slide across the bar they would automatically get a drink. Sadly, I looked so young that I got carded and since I was shy of being twenty one years old the employees were reluctant to let me inside. Somehow we convinced the doorman that Mike and I were married and that I was therefore of legal age for drinking. 

We were determined to live it up before beginning life as starving married students. We literally spent our very last dollar before boarding our plane back to Houston. We came back with great stories, presents for everyone, and memories that would never fade. 

Over the years we returned to New Orleans again and again. First our girls came with us and then our grandchildren. We loved introducing them to their first taste of seafood gumbo. Now they all love that delicious stew and so I had to learn how to make it for them. Gumbo has become one of my premiere specialities. Even my former students love this dish and often request it when they come to visit. Last year it became our new traditional Christmas day fare.

So here is my recipe for Seafood Gumbo:

2 lbs. fresh Gulf shrimp (HEB has the best unless you are willing to go to Kemah)

2 small crabs (It’s difficult to find the blue crabs so I just get whatever is available)

1/2 carton of crab pieces

3 quarts water

2 tsp. crab boil

2 Tbls. cooking oil

1 quart fresh or frozen okra, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

2/3 cup cooking oil

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 16 ounce can chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. white pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Peel and de-vein the shrimp, and set aside in the refrigerator. Rinse the shrimp shells and heads, place in a pot along with 2 quarts of water and 1 tsp of crab boil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes to make a stock. Strain. Throw away the shells and heads. Wash the crabs and place in a pot with 1 quart of water and 1tsp of crab boil. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain. Keep the stock and crabs.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and saute the okra over medium high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes or until all the ropiness is gone.

Place 2/3 cup oil in a large heavy Dutch oven type pan. Add the flour and, over a medium high heat, make a dark brown roux. Stir constantly. The mixture will begin to bubble and smell like popcorn. Keep stirring until there is a dark brown color. Once the roux is ready add onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally until everything is tender. During the process, allow the vegetables to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, then scrape the bottom with a spoon or spatula. Once the vegetables are ready add the tomatoes and all of the spices. Cook for about ten minutes more. 

Add the crab stock and half of the shrimp stock to the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat a bit, cover and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. If the gumbo appears too thick add more stock. Add salt to taste and adjust the pepper if desired. Add the broken crabs and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the peeled shrimp and the crab pieces and return to a boil. Simmer until the shrimp are firm and pink, about 5 minutes. If you prepare this the day before you wish to eat it, it will taste much better. You may also freeze the gumbo and use it at a later date. Just be sure when you reheat that you do not overcook the shrimp.

Serve over steamed rice. Add a salad and some garlic bread for a feast.

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