As some of you know, my husband recently hung out a shingle and started practicing law as a solo attorney. Mostly (at least for now) he does indigent criminal defense work, but occasionally he gets retained clients and gets to dabble in other things. Recently, he helped some folks with a commercial lease agreement, and in addition to paying a retainer, the clients gave him some fresh okra from their garden as a token of their appreciation. Since we are still trying to eat healthy, fried okra was out of the question. What’s the next best way to use the little green pods? Gumbo, of course!
The recipe inspiration came from Tyler Florence, but I mucked with it significantly. First of all, I was WAY too lazy to make shrimp stock, and I couldn’t find any kind of seafood stock in my local megamarts. So, for the base of the soup, I used vegetable stock seasoned and simmered with some Old Bay, lemon, onion, and bay leaves. Second, the recipe called for shrimp and oysters, but the latter were impossible to find at a price I was willing to pay. So, I found a frozen seafood mix that worked fairly well.
The end result was actually really tasty. Okra is a great thickener, so the gumbo wasn’t weak or watery. Sure, shrimp stock would have provided some deeper flavor, but there was so much seafood in the stew that I think it evened out a bit. As with most soups, I loved the way my kitchen smelled while everything was simmering. My only regret? Not having some crunchy oyster crackers or Saltines to crush on top of the gumbo (the rice and the veggies are soft, so some textural contrast would have been nice). Overall, though, I think this is a good base recipe for gumbo that can be modified to suit one’s on-hand ingredients and personal taste. Enjoy!
Start by making a roux base: Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot. Just as the foam subsides, add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk to prevent lumps. Cook the roux until it’s the color of a walnut and smells equally as nutty, this should take about 15 minutes.
Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and okra; season with salt, cayenne, and Old Bay. Mix in the tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring now and then, until the vegetables are soft. Pour in the cooled stock and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the gumbo is dark and thick. Toss in the seafood, cook about another 15 minutes; adjust seasoning.
To serve: Ladle the gumbo into shallow bowls and pile some rice in the center. Sprinkle the parsley and green onions over the top. Pass the French bread and hot sauce at the table.