Seafood Gumbo

This hearty Creole seafood stew is typically served around a mound of rice and accompanied by additional hot sauce and filé powder. Gumbo versions are numerous, but they always start with the essential dark roux. This butter (or oil) and flour mixture is cooked until nutty brown, giving the unique taste this stew is known for.

The holy trinity of onion, celery and bell pepper comes next, along with okra and tomatoes, but beyond that each cook adds his or her own special touch. Don't be put off by the number of ingredients; it's easy to put together, and the gumbo base can be made ahead of time.

GUMBO BASE

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (32-oz.) carton seafood stock or lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-oz.) can stewed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups frozen cut okra
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

SEAFOOD

1 lb. shelled, deveined uncooked large shrimp (21 to 30 count)
2 cups shucked oysters
8 oz. catfish or tilapia filets, cut into 1-inch pieces, or lump crabmeat
1 tablespoon filé powder*
1/3 cup sliced green onions

1. Melt 1/3 cup of the butter in medium skillet over medium heat; whisk in flour. Cook over medium to medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until roux turns chocolate brown, stirring constantly (do not overcook as roux will continue to darken during cooling). Remove from heat.

2. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onion 3 minutes or until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally. Add celery and bell pepper; cook 3 minutes. Stir in garlic; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in roux and all remaining gumbo base ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cover and simmer over low heat 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. (Gumbo base can be made to this point 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

3. Remove cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add oysters with their liquor; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until edges begin to curl. Add catfish and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until fish just begins to flake. Remove from heat; stir in filé powder. Serve sprinkled with green onions.

8 (1 1/3-cup) servings

PER SERVING: 280 calories, 14.5 g total fat (7.5 g saturated fat), 20.5 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 160 mg cholesterol, 1180 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber

TIP *Filé powder, made from the ground leaves of the sassafras tree, is an essential ingredient in Louisiana cooking, adding flavor and thickening to gumbos and other dishes.


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