De L'epee Festival Seafood Gumbo
Yield - about 3 Gallons (50 1 cup servings). Make 2 1/2 recipes for 100 people.
This is best made the day before with the seafood and file' added when it is reheated for serving. It is a popular recipe, not as thick as a Cajun gumbo would be, nor as thin as a Creole seafood gumbo would be. Best to freeze before adding the file' and seafood, but has been successfully frozen and carefully reheated after thawing. Overheated, the file' turns to bitter strings, so if you plan to freeze, omit the file' until reheated for serving.
1 6 to 8 pound picnic ham with bone
peels and tails from the shrimps you will be using
6 quarts water
2 -1/2 cups medium dark roux
3 cups (1 1/4 pound)onions, diced 1/4" pieces
3 cups (1/2 head) celery, chopped with leaves
3 cups (1 1/2 pound)bell peppers, diced 1/4" pieces
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh minced garlic
2 teaspoons whole thyme leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4 whole bay leaves
2-3 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kitchen bouquet
2 cups crushed tomato pieces
1-1/2 pounds catfish fillets, no bellies or bones
6 gumbo crabs, cracked, cleaned and split into 8
OR 2 pounds crab claw meat with liquid
1 tablespoon gumbo file'
1 quart oysters with liquid
3 pounds fresh shrimp*, peeled and deveined (31 - 35 count)
2 gallons cooked long grain rice, preferably cooked with chicken stock
salt to taste, but not until after the seafood is added, it has a lot from the ingredients
Two nights before, prepare the ham stock. Simmer the ham bone, seafood peels/shells and water in an 8 quart crockpot on low overnight. Strain, shred the meat into bite size pieces and return meat to the stock. Chill until ready to use.
The day before serving, prepare the gumbo base. Use a braiser or 20 quart stock pot and whisk the roux. It takes 3-5 minutes over high heat, but if you have never made roux, use medium heat and take 20 minutes. NEVER USE A SCORCHED ROUX; it will ruin the entire dish. If you burn it start over. Once the roux is a warm beautiful golden brown, add the onions, celery, bell pepper, tomato paste and garlic to the roux and simmer stirring over medium low heat until all vegetables are very limp, about 30 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients including the stock (except gumbo filé, oysters and shrimp, and rice) to the gumbo base; simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Break up pieces of catfish (in the gumbo) with a chef's spoon. Allow gumbo to cool for 30 minutes, cover and place overnight in the refrigerator. To cook and serve the gumbo the same day, add an additional 20 to 30 minutes of covered simmering time before adding the seafood to marry the flavors.
When ready to serve, bring gumbo to low boil; remove a cup of the liquid and mix with the filé gumbo. Make a paste and add to the gumbo, whisk in completely. Add oysters and shrimp, curl the oysters and turn shrimp pink (3 - 5 minutes) and serve over a scoop of 2/3 cup cooked rice.
Serve with additional gumbo filé and hot sauce on the table. There is no extra salt specified in the recipe. Oysters and crab can be very salty, so don't add salt until you adjust the seasonings just before serving.
* If frozen shrimp are used, get the smaller, 70 - 90 count shrimp, this lessens the taste difference between fresh and frozen.