Hello Shrimp and Okra Gumbo! What do you think of the new photo size? Too big maybe? I can’t decide. I told the hubby I wanted bigger photos on the site, but I just don’t know if they should be this large. Please, tell me what you think! The gumbo, on the other hand, it’s a keeper. No indecisiveness there. This recipe is awesome through and through–oh how I wish I could hand you a spoon and invite you to dig it. It’s earthy and aromatic and an essential part of my Lenten menu since it’s meatless.
Shrimp and okra are common companions in Creole cooking and you’re sure to stumble upon many shrimp and okra recipes during the summer months when both of these ingredients are at their peak. But there’s nothing wrong with using frozen shrimp and frozen okra, especially in recipes such as this. These days, fresh shrimp and okra are frozen so quickly after they are fished and picked that they retain much of their texture and flavor. If you’re landlocked like me, you also don’t have many other options when it comes to shrimp.
To help these star ingredients retain all their goodness when preparing this recipe, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. On the okra front, I strongly suggest not cooking it down ahead of time. Part of the okra’s purpose in this recipe is to thicken the gumbo. Yes, the recipe starts with a roux. But the okra contributes a certain finishing texture that the roux alone cannot achieve. I promise, you will not end up with a gooey mess. Also, don’t throw the okra in the pot when you start warming up the stock. If you do, you’ll end up with nothing more than small pieces of green pods bobbing along separate and apart from their estranged pale seeds.
The shrimp also need a little respect. As you know, they don’t take long to cook. For that reason, they should be added at the end of the cooking time. This act of kindness, however, does not allow much time for the seafood flavor to develop. So, ideally, it would be best to make this gumbo the day before you plan on serving. Of course, using a deeply flavored, homemade shrimp or seafood stock will greatly help this cause. I know it’s an extra step but it makes all the difference in the world. Pour yourself a beer or glass of wine, give the kids an extra hour of outside play and embrace the process. You won’t regret it!
Shrimp and Okra Gumbo Recipe
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
10 cups seafood stock, divided
1 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped green bell peppers
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen okra, sliced (and thawed if frozen)
3 pounds medium shrimp, peeled
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon Lea & Perrins (Worcestershire sauce)
Baked Rice, for serving (see recipe)
In a small bowl, thoroughly combine seasoning mix; set aside. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, bring 8 cups seafood stock to a simmer over medium heat; reserve additional 2 cups stock. In a large heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, make a roux by heating the oil over high heat until it begins to smoke. Gradually add the flour, whisking carefully and vigorously after each addition until smooth. Continue whisking until the roux is the color of milk chocolate. Lower heat to medium and add the onions, bell peppers, celery and jalapeño peppers. Cook, whisking constantly until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and 2 teaspoons reserved seasoning mix; cook an additional 2 minutes. Increase heat on stock to medium-high. Once stock comes to a strong simmer, gradually add roux mixture, whisking with each addition until dissolved; return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. Add okra and reserved 2 cups seafood stock. Cook, stirring occasionally, an additional 20 minutes. Add shrimp, green onions and Lea & Perrins and cook for 10 minutes more. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve over Baked Rice. Makes 8-10 servings.