It’s okra season, and to me that means one thing: gumbo.
Here is my go-to recipe, which is a slightly modified take on the traditional seafood gumbo. In lieu of crab meat, I use shiitake mushrooms and chopped spinach, which mimic the texture of crab meat and save on cost. Of course, you can use crab meat instead… or add them all for extra flavor. Give yourself about five hours from start to finish, and don’t forget to let it sit overnight in the fridge so the flavors can meld.
- ¾ cup flour (gluten-free Bob’s all-purpose works great)
- ½ cup organic olive oil (organic is important—regular olive oil will leave a bad taste)
- 1 large onion
- 1 large bell pepper
- 4 stalks celery
- garlic to taste
- ½ lemon
- 2 lb. okra
- 1 package frozen chopped spinach
- ½ lb. shiitake mushrooms
- 2 gumbo crabs
- 2 lbs. fresh shrimp
- 1 bunch green onions
- ground thyme
- Cajun seasoning
- bay leaves
First, trim all of your veggies and put them into the stock pot. This includes the ends of your onions, green onions and celery, and bell pepper and shiitake stems. Squeeze the lemon and add the juice and rind, and add a few cloves of crushed garlic. Peel the shrimp, rinse the heads and shells well, then put them in the pot. Fill the pot with water, leaving about two inches of room at the top. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour. Once the stock is done, strain it a few times and discard the shells and veggies.
Prepare Your Ingredients
While the stock is going, chop the onions, celery and bell pepper and mince the garlic. Thinly slice the shitakes and put the spinach out to defrost. Cook the okra before you add it to gumbo in order to remove the “slime.” I prefer to cut them into ½ inch slices, toss them with olive oil, and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for thirty minutes. This adds another level of rich flavor. You can also cook them in a pan over medium heat until the slime is gone. De-vein the shrimp. I prefer to cut the shrimp into one-inch pieces, sprinkling them with Cajun seasoning and letting them marinate. Finely chop the green onions.
Heat the oil over medium heat until hot, then add the flour in small batches. Whisk continuously until the roux turns a rich dark peanut butter color (about twenty minutes). Once the roux is done, add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic and cook for fifteen minutes. Add the shiitakes, folding them in gently, then cook for a few minutes. Fold in the spinach and cooked okra and cook for a few minutes more.
Gently whisk the stock in batches into the roux and veggie mixture, mixing well. Add enough stock to leave a few inches of room at the top. Rinse the gumbo crabs well and add them to the pot. Add three bay leaves, 2 tbsp. ground thyme, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for two hours, adding more stock if necessary. If you see any “foam” on the top of the gumbo, gently scrape it off with a shallow metal spoon. The foam is said to contain impurities, so I like to get rid of it.
Add The Seafood
After two hours, add the shrimp and green onions to the gumbo. If you are using crabmeat, pick through it for shells then add it at this point, gently folding it in. Cut the heat and let the gumbo sit for ten minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
You can serve the gumbo at this point, but keep in mind it will taste better if you let it sit overnight in the fridge and reheat individual servings the next day.
Serve with white rice, French bread and butter, and a chilled southern potato salad. Throw in some hot sauce and say oh ma chér!