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Mardi Gras Gumbo


March is Mardi Gras month. Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” is the last night of eating rich foods before fasting for lent. So let the indulging begin with this amazing and hearty recipe for seafood and sausage gumbo! My thanks to Scottsdale resident Kathy Rice for sharing this festival of flavors in a bowl!

Note: Gumbo is a soup, but it is often served over rice as a main course.

Seafood and Sausage Gumbo

3 pounds raw shrimp (16 count) in shell

1 1/2 quarts water

4 onions, 2 of them quartered, the rest diced

4 bay leaves

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons margarine or butter

2 green bell peppers, seeded and minced

4 celery stalks, minced

1 1/2 pounds Andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices

3 cups fresh okra, cut into 1/2-inch slices (may substitute frozen)

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup hot pepper sauce (adjust to taste optional)

2 cups chopped, peeled fresh or canned plum tomatoes (I prefer canned)

1 pound fresh crabmeat

Boiled rice, to serve

Crusty bread for dunking

Peel and de-vein the shrimp; reserve the heads and shells. Cover and chill the shrimp while you make the sauce.

Place the shrimp heads and shells in a saucepan with the water, 2 quartered onions, and 1 of the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Partly cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and set aside.

To make a Cajun roux, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. When the oil is hot, add the flour, a little at a time, and blend to a smooth paste.

Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for 25 to 40 minutes until the roux reaches the color of peanut butter. Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until the roux cools and stops cooking.

Melt the margarine or butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or flameproof casserole. Finely chop the remaining onions and add to the pan with the peppers and celery. Cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the sausage, stir well, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the okra and garlic, stir, and cook until the okra stops producing white “threads.”

Add the remaining bay leaves, the thyme, salt, black and white peppers, cayenne pepper, and hot-pepper sauce to-taste, if using. Stir well then stir in 1 1/2 quarts of the shrimp stock and the plum tomatoes. Bring to a boil, partly cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Whisk in the Cajun roux. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, whisking well. Lower the heat again and simmer, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the shrimp and crabmeat. Cook for at least 3 to 4 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.

To serve, put a mound of hot, boiled rice in each serving bowl and ladle the gumbo over, making sure each person gets some prawns and some crabmeat. Serve with crusty bread for dunking.

Serves 10 to 12.