6 to 8 servings
Gumbo, a thickened soup or stew served over hot cooked rice, is the crowning achievement of Creole cookery. The number of ingredients can be lengthy and the preparation a bit time consuming, but the flavor is well worth the effort. Many varieties of fish and seafood, as well as ham and chicken, are used in preparing a tasty gumbo. Okra is usually the essential ingredient, although it is often omitted in New Orleans. The word gumbo, or gumbo, is a Creole patois corruption of the African word for okra. File powder is added for thickening just before serving, although flour is used sometimes as a substitute.
Remove shells and tails from shrimp and devein; place shrimp on ice, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. In a medium heavy saucepan, combine shrimp shells and enough water to cover thoroughly; bring to a boil over moderate heat and continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, discard shells, and reserve shrimp stock for gumbo.
In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, combine chicken and enough water to cover thoroughly. Bring to a boil over moderate heat; reduce heat and simmer, cover ajar, for about 1 hour or until chicken is fork tender. Remove chicken from liquid and allow chicken to cool until easy to handle. Transfer chicken stock to a container and reserve. Remove and discard skin and bones from chicken; cut chicken into bite-size pieces, cover, and reserve. While chicken is cooking, sauté sausage in a medium heavy skillet over moderate heat; drain sausage, crumble link sausage, and set aside.
In the large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat bacon drippings or oil over moderate heat; gradually stir in flour, blending well. Cook, stirring constantly, over moderate heat until mixture is copper brown in color, about 20 minutes. Be careful to not scorch or burn roux. Add celery, garlic, onion, leek, green pepper, bay leaf, tomatoes, parsley, basil, thyme, seasonings, reserved sausage, and reserved chicken and shrimp stocks/liquids. Bring to a boil over moderate heat; reduce temperature and simmer, uncovered, for 2½ hours, stirring occasionally. Add reserved chicken and fresh okra and continue simmering 30 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, frozen okra, if used, and 1 tablespoon file powder or to taste, and crabmeat. Adjust seasonings to taste.
To serve, ladle hot mixture into bowls. May serve over hot cooked rice, if desired. Additional gumbo file may be passed to sprinkle over each serving, if desired.
Note: May use boneless, skinless pieces of chicken, if desired; decrease amount to1½ to 2 pounds. However, the bones and skin add much to the flavor of the chicken stock in the gumbo.
Note: May omit sausage, if desired; add 8 ounces cubed fully-cooked smoked ham or Smithfield-style ham to gumbo mixture.
Note: May omit crabmeat; increase shrimp to 1½ pounds. Or, add 8 to 16 ounces boneless catfish or other firm whitefish pieces to gumbo with the shrimp.