I love thick, and spicey Shrimp and Okra Gumbo Filé! Being that I was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana,I have been introduced to all the Cajun cuisine your heart could ever desire. I learned how to prepare all the savory dishes of my home city, as well, and I make a real mean gumbo. When preparing gumbo don’t ever rush! This is a dish that’s meant to be prepared slowly so all the flavors, and spices have enough time to meld together as it’s slow cooking on the burner. Now, I may not be an expert in many things, but I can honestly admit I am an expert when it comes to cooking. I take extra pride in what I cook just to see that satisfied smile on the face of a full belly.
Now, when you gather your ingredients for your gumbo, be sure everything is as fresh as possible. The only ingredient that can be frozen without sacrificing flavor is the Okra, otherwise everything else needs to be fresh. Your shrimp should be no more than a 2 day old catch for guaranteed freshness. Give yourself at least 5 hours to prepare your gumbo before you plan to serve it, otherwise it won’t taste right. The bests gumbo is the one that had more time for the seasoning to mix, and good things come to those who wait. Here are the ingredients and supplies you will need.
Large Gumbo Pot
Shrimp Stock- 4 quarts or enough to fill your pot 1/2 way
(the Shrimp stock is made by boiling your shrimp’s shells and heads for the juice, much like boiling bones for beef or chicken stock)
1 cup Flour
1 cup Oil
1 tablespoon Filé
Tony Chachere Cajun Seasoning – to taste
Tabasco- to taste
Crab Boil – 1 tablespoon or to taste for more spice
Salt- to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 Bay Leaf
1 medium onion- minced
1 clove garlic-minced
2 lbs Cut Okra- fresh or frozen
2 lbs Large Fresh Shrimp-Peeled and De-vained
(Optional) 4 Quartered Crabs, or 1 lbs Crab Claws
(Optional) 1 lbs Sausage or Turkey Sausage-Sliced Chunks
2 cups Tomatoes- peeled and crushed
Begin my making your shrimp stock by boiling shrimp shells and heads for 20-30 minutes in 4 quarts of water in a separate pot from your Gumbo pot.
In your Gumbo pot mix the oil and the flour together as your pot starts to heat up on the burner. This will make your Roux or Gumbo Base. The darker you make your roux, the richer your gumbo’s flavor will be, but don’t burn it too dark otherwise it will taste off. A good color to aim for is roughly the color of cinnamon. It’s also important to not let it sit, you must continuously stir so that it won’t scorch onto the bottom of your Gumbo pot. Once you reach close to the desired color you want your roux to be,throw in your onions and garlic. Saute them for roughly one minute and then slowly start to pour your shrimp stock into the mix. It is very important to try and stir as you mix it so your roux doesn’t clump up. Maybe asking someone to assist you while you do this would be better. If assistance is not an option, then portion it off little by little by pouring, stirring, pouring more, and stirring until you reached the full amount.
After you added your shrimp stock your gumbo should look almost like a thick murky water. This is actually a good thing, so don’t sweat it. If it seems too thick you can add water later on after you had the chance to test it. For now, you should start adding your peeled tomatoes, bay leaves, crab boil, filé, Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning, salt and Tabasco sauce. Once you add your ingredients turn up the heat a little on your burner. Bring your Gumbo to a nice boil for about a minute while stirring, and then turn it down to a simmering heat.
Let your Gumbo simmer for about 40 minutes. This will allow the Filé, Crab boil, Tony Chachere Seasoning, Tobasco, and Bay leaves to work their magic. The longer your gumbo cooks the more your seasonings have the chance to meld together to form a mouthwatering flavor.
After 40 minutes has passed start adding your other ingredients in the order of the one that takes the longest to cook first. If you are using sausage and crab, then this is the time to add them. Let it boil again, stirring, and once again simmer for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, come back and add your Okra and vinegar. The vinegar keeps the Okra from becoming slimy, so, it’s a very important ingredient, yet, it can sometimes be easily overlooked. Once again raise your Gumbo to a boil, stirring, and again lower it to a simmer for 3 more minutes.
After 30 minutes it’s time again to come back and add your last ingredient, the shrimp, but before you add your shrimp, taste of your gumbo to see if it needs anymore salt,Cajun seasoning or Tabasco sauce. This would be the time to add it, if it does, so that seasoning has a chance to blend with the gumbo while the shrimp cooks. The reason you add the shrimp absolutely last is because it doesn’t take very long for it to cook. If shrimp over cooks it becomes tough and crumbly. After you add your shrimp, bring the gumbo to a boil for the last time, let it boil for a minute, stirring, and once again bring it to a simmer for the last 30 minutes. After your 30 minutes ifs finished, turn off the burner, and let the gumbo sit for a few minutes to cool.
Prepare some white rice while the Shrimp and Okra Gumbo Filé is marinating in it’s seasoning. Once your rice is finished place a scoop into a bowl, and serve your Gumbo over it.
This is how we make our gumbo in New Orleans, and anything rushed sooner than a few hours is much too fast for it to be authentic Cajun cuisine. I hope you enjoy and all that lagniappe!