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Family Central: Taking the Mumbo Jumbo Out of Seafood Gumbo

Gumbo is one of my favorite soups to make and to eat, but it takes a lot of time to get the flavors just right and the base of the gumbo to be just the perfect shade of buttery brown. This base is called the “roux,” pronounced “roo.” To be honest, I am successful in making a perfect roux only about 75 percent of the time.

When I found this recipe from an old Louisiana church cookbook, I was intrigued because it didn’t seem to require a lot of the steps you find in traditional gumbo recipes. Also, this one didn’t call for filé powder, and I don’t care for the sassafrass-based taste of file powder in my gumbo. I decided to try this recipe one week not too long ago, and it was absolutely delicious.

It is a bit lighter than other gumbos, but I like the fact you can see the wonderful shrimp and crabmeat and enjoy those flavors without losing everything in a dark brown gooey roux. If you like spicy, you’ll want to add some cayenne pepper – or be sure the hot pepper sauce is on the table for passing around!


Shrimp Gumbo
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 lb sliced bacon, diced
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 (10 oz) box frozen okra, thawed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb fresh or frozen crabmeat

Cook the bacon over medium heat in a heavy saucepan until crisp, stirring frequently. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat, then add the vegetables (except the okra), 4 cups of broth, Worcestershire, salt and thyme. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the okra and cook 10 minutes longer. Stir in the shrimp and crabmeat and cook 5 minutes more, or until the shrimp curl and turn pink. Serve warm over hot, cooked rice.