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Thursday, January 14, 2010

South Alabama Gumbo

Preparing and devouring a seafood feast is a Christmas Eve tradition with my in-laws. Their hometown, Brewton, Alabama, is approximately 5 miles from the Florida state line. It is also only about 1 and 1/2 hours from Mobile, AL. This second locale is important because of our dear friends the Atkins. The Atkins family has owned Southern Fish & Oyster wholesale seafood supply for several generations. (You can reach them here (251) 438-2408.) The fish house is located on the Mobile River and supplies the freshest seafood in town to almost all of the local restaurants. Having wonderful friends who can sell you the absolute best seafood you've ever tasted comes in handy you know.

We drove down to Mobile the day before Christmas Eve to get some crab claws, Alabama Gulf Coast shrimp, and to visit our dear Aunt Weise. She is a whole 'nother blog post entirely. She's a famous water colorist who lives in Fairhope, AL. Her paintings are signed with her first name only, Willoweise. You'll have to keep your eye out for her work. Again, I'll do a post solely about her later.

Judd has become the gumbo king in our family. In the midst of the Christmas craziness going on around us, we attempted to document how to make this delicious dish. He's going to walk you through the process in a few but first....

Here are the ingredients you'll need:

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (2-3 cloves)
2 cups diced Conecuh sausage (for all of you non-Alabamians this is pronounced Ca-neck-ah. You can click the link above to find their website. This sausage is made here in the heart of dixie in Evergreen, Alabama.)
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 to 2 lb's of "16-20's" or Jumbo Gulf Coast Shrimp (peeled and de-veined)
1 lb container of Crab Claws (Cocktail Crab Fingers)
4 cups of Swanson's chicken broth (very MSG)
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups cut okra
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Tabasco is a great substitute....but we use both)
1 teaspoon file powder or until desired thickness (this is pronounced Fe-lay).
Salt and Pepper to taste
Note: The okra can also come from a frozen package of gumbo vegetables. We used this method for the batch below. It usually has corn, okra, celery, and red bell pepper. This is not a substitute for the fresh green bell pepper or diced fresh celery found above.
Serves 10-12

Judd here......Abby's insisting that I write my own process of making our here goes nothing. Step 1: Get the freshest local seafood ( does matter).
Quick fact: when it comes to shrimp, the jargon has no industry regulations. The more universal technique measures shrimp by the count, or number. If the shrimp are "16-20s," that means there are 16 to 20 shrimp per pound, regardless of the label's large, extra-large, or jumbo designation (courtesy of Coastal Living).
Step 2: Peel jumbo shrimp.
Step 3: De-vein shrimp with a shrimp deveiner (come's the south...they sell them at your local grocer). If you're not from the south or coastal areas, you could use a knife, but the logic behind the deveiner is that the curvature of the instrument depicts the curvature of the shrimp itself. It is a miracle utensil if you ask me. (Below-my dad deveining)
Step 4: Rinse promptly with cold water.

Step 5: Read carefully......the roux is the most important step of the gumbo process. In a 5qt pot combine the flour and butter and cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until the roux has browned. The ideal color you're looking for is chocolate.

Step 6: Add the onion, green bell pepper and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

The fragrance of these ingredients mixed together will blow you away! Even Justin Wilson himself would say "Oooooweee dat smell goooood!"

You have to man your station for a brief moment, but after mixing the ingredients......perfection is effortless and inevitable!

Step 7: Add sausage (browning for a minute), add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, celery, okra (or frozen gumbo vegetables), thyme, bay leaves and cayenne and bring to a quick boil. Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

Step 8: Throw in the crab claws a minute or two before you add the peeled shrimp and cook for 10 minutes. Add file powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Step 9: Cook white rice by a 2:1 ratio of 2 cups water to 1 cup rice for approximately 20 minutes.(note: I like it a bit dryer than most).

Step 10: Pour your gumbo over rice, throw a French baguette in the oven dressed with some olive oil, sea salt, butter, and Tony's Chachere's (we like to call it creole seasoning in South Alabama).
Plate the rice, gumbo, and bread and devour!


  1. Man....i'm hungry. Let's make some more!

  2. Me too! Seafood please, Tripp. Put your chef hat on Judd.