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Tracy Zygmontowicz | Farmers EC

Like gumbo itself, which originated in Louisiana in the early 1800s, this Creole-style preparation has deep roots. “This is a family recipe from southeast Louisiana,” Zygmontowicz writes. Filé powder, made from ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree, gives this recipe a rich texture and flavor. Filé was first used by the Choctaw to thicken and flavor stews.

3 tablespoons butter or shortening
4 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons flour, or more if needed
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to desired heat level
4 tablespoons gumbo filé
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
2 cups water
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
2 cans (15 ounces each) whole tomatoes
4 bay leaves
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon liquid crab boil, or more to taste
1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste
1 1/2 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 ounces crabmeat (lump or claw) or 2–3 whole blue crabs
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced

1. Heat the butter (or shortening) in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and celery, and sauté until softened and the onions and celery are translucent.

2. Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring, until the flour has browned (losing its “raw” smell). Add the parsley, thyme, cayenne and filé, and stir until the vegetables are coated in the seasonings. Add the tomato paste and water, and stir until combined. Add tomatoes and remaining seasonings, plus an additional 2–4 cups of water as desired for consistency, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook approximately 1 1/2–2 hours.

3. After the mixture has begun to thicken, add cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt to taste. Add the shrimp, crab and smoked sausage, and simmer another 1–1 1/2 hours.

4. Serve bowls of hot gumbo with rice and garlic bread.

Serves 8–10.

Cook’s Tip

If you want an all-seafood gumbo, feel free to omit the sausage. For a deeper flavor, use shrimp or chicken stock instead of water.