The roux for gumbo is unique, in keeping with other blackened Creole dishes. The flour/oil mixture is cooked until very dark. Not that it actually burns; it needs constant stirring to avoid a scorched flavor. But it does gradually turn a deep brown-to-black color before other ingredients are added. Millet flour can also substitute for white flour, to make this a gluten-free recipe. “File powder” is a unique ingredient for some; the American Indians added it to dishes. It’s dried, ground sassafras leaves, which add an earthy flavor, thickening the soup a bit too.
Vary this recipe by using different meats, sausages, seafood, even different vegetables. Purists would say to look for fresh shrimp with heads on; add the shrimp shells plus shrimp heads (and any other fish bones) to a pressure cooker (or regular pot), and cook up a flavorful stock to use as a base for this gumbo.
Serve with rice and bread to complete the meal. Serves 8.
2 c. onion
1 c. celery
1 c. green pepper
2 tsp. salt
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 TBS. paprika
1 TBS. minced fresh garlic
2 1/2 TBS. file powder
5 c. shrimp stock (or chicken stock)
1/2 lb. crab meat
1 dozen oysters
1 lb. raw shrimp
1 lb. raw fish, chopped in 1” pieces
3/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. flour (sub millet flour, for gluten-free)
Cooked rice (added last, to soup bowls)
1. Chop and set aside: 2 c. onion, 1 c. celery, 1 c. green pepper
2. Mix “Seasoning” and set aside: 2 tsp. salt, 2 bay leaves, crumbled, 1/2 tsp. cayenne, 1 tsp. pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, 1/4 tsp. oregano, 1 TBS. paprika, 1 TBS. minced fresh garlic, 2 1/2 TBS. file powder.
3. Bring to a boil in 6-8-quart stock pot: > 5 c. shrimp stock (or chicken stock) (See recipe below, for Shrimp Stock)
4. Set aside: 1/2 lb. crab meat, 1 dozen oysters, 1 lb. raw shrimp, 1 lb. raw fish, chopped in 1” pieces.
5. For roux, get an iron pan (or other) quite hot. Add to heat some: 3/4 c. olive oil.
6. With a metal spatula, mix into hot oil: > 3/4 c. flour (or sub millet or other flour)
7. Stir constantly, 2 to 4 minutes, until dark red-brown to black. Don’t scorch, but lower heat as necessary, until flour turns nicely brown while stirring. With experience, one might dare to go past brown into the reddish-brown-to-black territory. (The darker the roux without scorching it, the more intense the flavor.)
8. Once the right color is achieved, immediately add: Half of the chopped veggies.
9. Add the following, cooking 1 or 2 minutes after each addition: Remaining veggies, “Seasoning”.
10. Last, stir stock slowly into roux until smooth, bringing to a boil. Ten minutes or so before serving, add: The seafood.
11. Heat just until fish loses its transparency, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir as needed. (Don’t overheat after adding seafood, as that will toughen it.) Add rice to bowls (or bread bowls); ladle the seafood gumbo in to serve.
Jennifer Cote, with husband Tom, opened The New Deli in Pinole, CA in 1985. Her cookbooks are available at the shop and online. More can be found at thenewdeli.com. Comments, questions? Email Jennifer at email@example.com.