I first came across this amazing dish when I was living and working in East Texas. A coworker who hailed from Louisiana brought me in some to taste. Fell in love with it immediately. She gave me her recipe and I tweaked it to fit my taste. She used squid and octopus in her recipe. I am not a fan of either. Being from Maine, I added scallops and lobster. No matter what seafood you like, it will be a gastric delight for your soul.
Gumbo, even though it is a popular dish in South Louisiana, originated in West Africa. One of Gumbo’s key ingredients is okra and this plant was not native to the Americas. West Africans brought over okra pods to the Americas during the transatlantic slavery period. The original dish used okra as a thickener, it was stew like and contained shellfish and fish. In this way, West Africans preserved a culinary tradition for preparing Gumbo by transplanting its key ingredient, okra.
Native Americans living in South Louisiana added their own flavor to the dish by using ground up sassafras leaves known as file’ for a thickener. File’ also adds a unique flavor. Europeans used a roux as a thickener instead of file’ or okra. Roux originated in France and is created by browning equal parts flour and oil/fat in a hot skillet to a desired color (light to dark). The thickening method of using a roux is the most widely used option for thickening Gumbo in South Louisiana recipes and Cajun cooking. I am not a fan of okra and I create a roux to use as my thickener and I use file’ as added flavor. I have not been able to find file’ in stores here in Maine so I just order it online.
Seafood Gumbo is a great comfort food to make in February/March when crawfish season has peaked and it is still cold outside. I make this at least once a year and I just made this delicious dish a few weeks ago. Enjoy and do not hesitate to tweak it to agree with your tummy!!
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoon minced garlic
1 – 12 oz amber beer
6 cups seafood stock*
2 tablespoon file’ powder
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Seafood: crab meat, oysters, shrimp, crawfish, haddock or catfish, scallops, lobster, and/or any combination of shellfish/fish you desire.
1/4 cup of fresh chopped parsely
3 or 4 stalks of green onion, chopped (optional)
Hot cooked rice
In an 8-quart stock pot, heat oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes; add flour, and stir together to form a roux. Cook, stirring often, until roux is the color of peanut butter, about 20 minutes.
Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook veggies, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add beer, seafood stock, file’, bay leaves, Cajun seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and cayenne pepper. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 hour.
Add all the seafood. The amount you use is up to you. I use: 1/2 pound shrimp, 1/2 pound crawfish, 1 tub of crab meat, 1/2 pound fresh oysters, and 1 haddock filet or 1 catfish filet. I dice up the fish before adding. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until seafood is cooked through. While this is cooking, I chop up my cooked lobster meat and add with just a few minutes left. You don’t want to over cook the lobster. Over cooked lobster gets tough. I add the lobster at the end to just heat it through; add parsley.
Serve with hot cooked rice and garnish with chopped green onion, if desired.
*Seafood stock: I create my own by buying shrimp with shells still on and a fresh lobster. I shell the shrimp while the lobster is in the steamer. I add 7 to 8 cups water to a large pot and put the lobster shells in this along with the shrimp shells. I pour in the water from the steamer, I add a bottle of lobster juice from the store and the juice from the oysters. I bring to a boil and then let it simmer for a couple of hours. Strain and discard shells. I make my seafood stock the night before. If I have made too much seafood stock, I freeze what is left over.
Cheers, Drew Frederic