A friend once told me that what separated the United States was not the Mason-Dixon line but okra. So when New Orleans native Chef David Guas opened Bayou Bakery in Northern Virginia, I was there on opening day and ordered the gumbo. It was an explosion of taste in each sip. I requested the recipe, and the chef very kindly shared. Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you. The soup is really simple to make. As the chef suggests, make a large pot and share it with friends.
Simone Rathle for NPR
Simone Rathle for NPR
Makes 8 servings
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped white onion (about 3 medium)
8 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups homemade chicken broth or best-quality packaged
2 (28-ounce) cans tomatoes, diced, with their juices
2 (10-ounce) packages sliced frozen okra, thawed
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 large bay leaves
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley, plus more for serving (optional)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 quart jarred oysters, with their liquor
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1 pound firm white fish fillets (such as catfish), cut in 1-inch pieces
Hot cooked rice for serving
To make the roux, combine the oil and flour in a heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until the roux is dark brown and smells toasty. Be very careful not to let the roux scorch.
Stir in the onion, celery and garlic. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions begin to soften.
Transfer the mixture to a deep Dutch oven or heavy stockpot. Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes, okra, Worcestershire, hot sauce, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, sage and pepper. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Add the shrimp, oysters, crabmeat and fish and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the seafood is just cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Serve the gumbo over cooked rice in deep bowls. If desired, sprinkle with chopped parsley.