In our March issue, we covered Kathryn Middleton Bankston Smith and her uncommon method of recording family history—through the lens of a cookbook. Inside her new book, “Cooking with MeMe,” she shares stories of her children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors, whether they revolve around beach vacations or holiday happenings, and even some words of wisdom garnered through the course of life. Of all the classics and creative renditions inside, Smith said that one of her favorites will always be the Creole seafood gumbo she traditionally cooks for Christmas, thanks to the memories of family gathered round a table, sharing stories of their own.
See the recipe below, and look out for the full cookbook at Calvin’s Bocage Market:
CREOLE SEAFOOD GUMBO
5 lbs. peeled shrimp
2 cups okra, sliced thin
1 large white onion, chopped fine
3 cups minced green onion
2 cups celery, chopped fine
1/2 cup bell pepper, cut finely
3 pods garlic, minced
2 cans chicken broth
8 cups seafood stock
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. Tony Chachere’s seasoning
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1/3 cup Pickapeppa sauce
1 Tbsp. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. McCormick Seafood Seasoning, to taste
1/4 tsp. thyme
4 Tbsp. parsley
2 bay leaves
1 to 2 lbs. white lump crab meat
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup flour
Optional: 1/2 cup finely cut tasso pork (I always use it!)
Optional: 1 (16-oz.) can stewed tomatoes
Gumbo is not an easy task, so plan on being in the kitchen for a while. Peel all of your shrimp, and prepare all of your veggies ahead of time, maybe even the day before. Some people don’t like so much green onion, so you can cut down on the green onion buy adding another white or yellow chopped onion. You can even serve the green onion raw on the side if you wish.
Make a shrimp stock in advance too.
Some go all out with this, but I make my stock by taking the shrimp shells and boiling them in about 10 cups of plain water for about 4 hours (put burner on medium/low after it comes to a boil). If you don’t have tasso, you can add a ham bone to the stock instead. The shrimp stock will turn a copper color, and there isn’t a precise science, but it does add a lot of flavor to the gumbo as opposed to just adding plain water. After 4 to 5 hours, drain the stock from the shells and discard the shells.
Make a roux by heating a 1/2 cup of the oil on LOW heat and then adding the flour. STIR CONSTANTLY!!! It usually takes about an hour to get it the color of dark leather. In a large skillet put in 1/2 cup of oil or a stick of butter and sauté the okra (you can add more okra if you like it), garlic, and white onions until they are wilted. Add the remaining vegetables with salt and pepper and stir them until they are wilted and soft. When the roux is brown, add the chopped vegetables and stir well. Add the chicken broth, only 5 cups of the shrimp stock (freeze the rest), 2 cups of water, 1/4 of the shrimp, and all of the seasonings. Add the tasso and canned tomatoes, if using. Let this simmer for about 2 hours. Check seasoning to taste. About 20 minutes before serving, add the remaining shrimp. Simmer and stir until shrimp is pink. Turn off the burner or turn to low, and add the crabmeat. Serve over cooked rice. Top with potato salad if you like.
You will never find a tomato or okra in a Cajun gumbo; only the Creole version.