Leah Chase's Okra Gumbo with Blue Crabs and Shrimp

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In this recipe from The Dooky Chase Cookbook, the legendary New Orleans chef Leah Chase used okra — and lots of it — to thicken this no-roux gumbo, along with the traditional Creole trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery. Chase's recipe calls for shrimp and live blue crabs, but if those aren't available in your area, it's worth the splurge to get them shipped overnight from a fishery in Louisiana and revel in the distinctive flavor of the Gulf seafood. Leah Chase was sometimes called the "Queen of Creole Cooking" and one bite of this gumbo, served simply over simple steamed rice, will show you why.

Okra Gumbo with Blue Crabs and Shrimp
Photo: © John Kernick
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Yield:
8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 3 pounds okra, thinly sliced crosswise

  • 4 live blue crabs

  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 1/2 quarts water

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 2 bay leaves

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

  • Steamed white rice, for serving

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the okra and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, 20 minutes. Add the crabs, onion, bell pepper and celery, cover and cook, stirring to prevent the okra from sticking to the bottom of the pot, until the vegetables are tender and the crabs are partially cooked, 15 minutes.

  2. Stir in the tomato paste, water, garlic, red pepper, paprika, cayenne, thyme and bay leaves; season with salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the crabs are bright red, 10 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and cook until pink, 10 minutes.

  3. Transfer the crabs to a work surface and pull off the triangular shell on the underside of each one. Using a sharp knife, cut each crab in half and transfer to bowls. Ladle the gumbo into the bowls and serve with rice.

Suggested Pairing

Clean, mellow pale ale.

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