Fat Tuesday is just around the corner, so it’s time to cook up a large pot of Seafood Filé Gumbo. I learned how to make gumbo years ago when I lived just outside of New Orleans on Lake Ponchartrain. I call this dish seafood gumbo, but it’s really only shrimp and crab gumbo. Many seafood gumbo recipes include oysters, crawfish, or white fish along with the crab and shrimp. Andouille sausage is also common in seafood gumbo. I like the flavor of the crab and shrimp more than I do when other seafood or sausage is added to the dish.
A well-flavored seafood stock is one secret to making a great gumbo. I make my stock with peppers, onions, and celery then I add shrimp shells, tails, and heads if the shrimp is not partially cleaned. I usually add a few cleaned blue crabs and bag of crab boil. I couldn’t find blue crabs today, so I used Florida rock crab instead. The stock should simmer for at least an hour before using in a recipe (make sure you strain it well).
A perfectly browned roux is the second secret to making a great gumbo. The roux has only two ingredients: oil and flour (I use vegetable oil). Once the oil is hot, add the flour and stir until it dissolves. Let it cook, stirring often, until the roux is brown but not burnt. If it does burn, you’ll need to toss it and start over (I’ve tossed out many a roux). The roux will thicken the gumbo while it’s cooking and give it an authentic New Orleans flavor. Normally, filé (pronounced fee-lay) is not used with okra. Okra helps thicken the soup. Filé is made from sassafras leaves and has a tea-like aroma. It helps thicken gumbo when okra is not used. I like the added flavor it gives the dish, so I usually add a little to my gumbo. It also makes it extra thick. Add the shrimp and lump crab just before serving that it doesn’t fall apart while it’s simmering.
Seafood Filé Gumbo Recipe
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped green pepper
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes cored and seeded
- 1 tablespoon filé optional
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds okra sliced into ½-inch pieces
- 2 pounds shrimp cleaned and deveined
- 2 pounds blue crab cleaned
- 1 pound lump crab meat
- 1 recipe seafood stock
- 8-10 cups cooked rice
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the flour, and stir until the roux is light to medium brown (be careful not to burn it). Add the onion, celery, and pepper, and stir until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt, and cook for about 10 minutes longer. Add the okra and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Add the stock to the roux and bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and cook for about 30 minutes. About 10 minutes before serving, add the filé, shrimp, crab meat, and blue crab. Adjust salt.
- Serve over steamed rice.
Yields about 8 quarts.