I was dating a man from Mobile, Alabama and his family is very well known for making the best gumbo around. After a couple years of dating him, I felt like I had inherited a national treasure when the ladies in this family finally shared their coveted seafood gumbo recipe with me. Every special event or holiday was marked with a big pot of gumbo. And of course, everyone raved right down to the last savory drop.

The recipe they gave me was cryptic and there were no measurements or portions mentioned (somehow I think they were setting me up…ha!). When my wedding finally came about, naturally I was going to make a big pot of gumbo for the
rehearsal dinner because the whole family was coming to town. My husband made the roux (he said I might ruin it) Ha! How difficult could this be? I was a decent cook up until this moment in time.

I filled my pot full of priceless seafood, okra, onions, spices and the coveted roux only to find that an hour into the cooking process, I had burned the bottom of the pot. The entire gumbo was ruined and nothing, I mean nothing could fix it #$@%!

It has taken me 10 years to even have the courage to attempt it again. Yesterday, I armed myself with several recipes and buckled down to tackle the roux project. It took two hours of brisk stirring over low heat in a big heavy pot to bring the roux to the deepest darkest chocolate brown I’d ever seen…like the liquid gold on the Beverly Hillbillies! I’ve never stood two hours in one place in my life except the tag line in Dekalb County …this was indeed a miracle!

Dinner was a culinary epiphany. It was the most challenging meal I've ever made in my entire life. I spent from 5:30 am till 7:30 pm strategizing, preparing and cooking that meal and it was worth every bite. My guests couldn’t rave enough and my husband was ready to re-new his wedding vows.

It was the best seafood gumbo, crab cakes drizzled with hollandaise, topped with red caviar, bread pudding with whiskey sauce any of us had ever eaten....ever! I'm so glad I carefully wrote down every move I made because it was a high risk adventure and one wrong move could have cursed the meal like an old witch from the bayou.



HERE’S A RECIPE (WITH PORTIONS AND MEASUREMENTS)

JENI’S “YA YA GUMBO”
MAKES VERY LARGE POT OF GUMBO, AT LEAST 15-20 SERVINGS

FIRST YOUZ NEED GROCERIES!
½ cups oil, ½ cup bacon grease
1 1/3 cups flour
3 huge chopped onions
Crushed tomatoes (large can)
2 packages frozen Okra, or one big package.
3 Bay leaves
Tony’s Creole seasoning to taste (4 or 5 shakes)
Celery flakes or celery, several shakes
Red pepper to taste, couple shakes
File to taste, couple shakes
2 packages of crawfish meat (put this crawfish into the crock pot with the vegetables)
6 cans of chicken broth (4 for the pot, 2 to add the next day)

THIS SEAFOOD GOES IN LAST
1 pint of (fresh or canned) Crab claw meat,
2-3 lbs shrimp (we bought 4 lbs)
any size can of oysters (fresh is always best) use all the juice too.
anything else you want that swims

MAKING THE ROUX
½ cups oil , ½ cup bacon grease
1 1/3 cups flour
cook in heavy pot, Gradually mix in flour (in the grease) till it makes a dark chocolate brown saucy paste. It will eventually look like an inch of oil is on top with black sludge (dark cooked flour) below. Cook this very carefully on low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for a long, loooong time (2 hrs + is how long I did it) It eventually turns a rich dark chocolate brown…be very careful not to burn cause it likes to settle in the bottom of the pot and you need to keep that baby moving with the spoon-scraping the bottom frequently. If smoke fills the air, turn it down! I turned it up and down a few times to carefully get the feel of it, this worked pretty good.

Use half of this batch of roux for the big pot of gumbo, save the other half cause you’ll want to make this again, I promise. You can freeze it.

NEXT:
Sautee 3 huge chopped onions (any variety) & 2 packages frozen okra
Use just a little butter, you want the slime from the okra to dissipate.


INTO THE BIG CROCK POT FOR 6-8 HRS.
get big pot (scoop everything except seafood into pot) and dump in 4-6 cups chicken broth. File(at the very end put a tad of file -which is: powdered bay leaves)

JUST 10-15 MINUTES BEFORE YOU EAT IT, YOU CAN ADD
Shrimp 2- 3 lbs medium (peeled) let them cook for 10+ minutes in the gumbo
Oysters or any other seafood you like! same for the oysters, let them cook down a little.
We put some lump crabmeat in our serving bowls for garnish.
Put red pepper and Tony’s seasoning on the table (for those who like it).

MAKE YOUR RICE
If you can get it, serve hot China doll rice in the bottom of a bowl and pour gumbo over the top! We used Zatarains no stick rice, this rice is really good.

NEXT DAY
You can add chicken broth to the gumbo to stretch it the next day if the gumbo thickens up. Consistency should be rich with goodies and soupy over rice.
P.S. Gumbo gets better everyday.
Invite all your friends over for this one!!!!!
MMMMMMMMMMMMM Ayyyyyyeeeeeee!

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Replies to This Discussion

Oh....Debra....you prompted me to update my gumbo recipe! I made an amazing discovery (took a cue from Alton Brown) and I learned by much trial and error that you can make the roux like this....

I cup of oil, I cup of flour....throw it in a crock pot (on high) and leave it for about 17 hours. It will turn deep....deep chocolate brown and it never burns. You only need to stir it maybe once or twice, just for a reality check :-). The color will look red in the pot but when you stir it, it turns chocolate! We eat gumbo all the time after discovering this amazing time saver. Alton cooks it in a double dutch oven in the stove.
Jeni,

The lagniappe about roux in the crockpot is topnotch, Thanks.

I have a question regarding gumbo. I learned that one NEVER used both file' and okra in the same gumbo. The reasoning was that they serve the same function, (thickener), and both are distinctive & mild flavors. Supposedly using both canceled out the subtlety of using just one.I've never questioned this stricture and now I wonder about it. Have you found the use of both in the same gumbo a usual kind of thing?

Alton Brown is teaching Molecular Gastronomy on his show and makes it fun.
Hi Paul, I have not heard that. You know I must confess that when I'm making gumbo for just the husband, I totally forget the file. I only use it when showing off for company and usually sprinkle just a smidgeon. I'll pay more attention to this next time. Gumbo is very tricky and it will come out differently every time you make it....my troubles lie with exactly how much roux to put in---I still need to nail that down. BTW Debra, you can freeze the leftover roux.

Another very important step that I take to ensure excellent seafood gumbo is I boil my seafood ahead and keep it in a bag in the fridge. When we heat up gumbo every night in a sauce pan, I throw the boiled shrimp, oysters in at the last minute just to heat them up for a second. I like the fresh shrimp when the flesh has a snap to it verses soggy gumbo soaked shrimp that have been in the pot a couple days....it's texture thing :-). I always put lump crab meat (tablespoon or more) :-) on top of hot bowl to finish it off. I use cheap canned crab, oyster juice and frozen crawfish meat to flavor the gumbo when cooking because the lump crab meat will just melt away---and that's a waste. Use it for garnish.

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