Fall shrimp season is open in Louisiana and I’ve got Shrimp Okra Gumbo on my mind. It’s just the right dish for these cooler temperatures of crisp, dry air. Don’t you love the first days of fall weather? It seems to put everyone in a good mood. I can remember my husband coming home from work on days like this when we still lived in south Louisiana. He’d say, “I can hear the gumbo pots rattling all over Kaplan!” I knew it was a hint to get mine out and start making a roux, but that’s not the start for our gumbo today. Surprised? Instead, we’ll begin with some smothered okra that thickens and flavors the shrimp in a rich, sweet broth. Over rice, of course!
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Two Kinds of Shrimp
Louisiana shrimp are plentiful in the Gulf coastal waters. With two shrimp seasons, spring and fall, fishermen are able to fill the high demands of this delicious seafood. Besides keeping restaurants and grocery stores in stock, there are plenty of individuals who fill their freezers with the season’s harvest. Shrimp preserve easily in water with or without the heads and shells.
There are mainly two different kinds of shrimp found in the Louisiana waters. They are the white and brown shrimp. The white shrimp (pictured above) are larger, sweeter, more tender and easier to peel. The reason for this is they come from brackish water which is a mixture of salt and fresh water of the bays and bayous. The brown shrimp, however, are more plentiful and have a slightly firmer shell with a more robust flavor. That’s because of its iodine-rich diet they get from salt water in the Gulf.
The Smothered Okra
The smothering begins with cooking fresh or frozen chopped okra for about an hour until the slime is gone. Then the Cajun trinity of onions, celery, and bell pepper is added along with tomatoes and a bit of garlic. These are cooked until the vegetables are softened and meld together then seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper. Making large batches of smothered okra during summer months to store in the freezer gives a head start for easy gumbo making all year long.
The Shrimp Okra Gumbo
Shrimp Okra Gumbo is one of my mama’s signature dishes that is often requested by her children whenever we get the chance to set our feet under her table. I enjoy it so much that whenever she asks what I want to eat the next day I just tell her leftovers. I could eat it three times a day!
This gumbo may seem to take a little longer to prepare, but not if you do some of the prepping while the okra is cooking. After the okra is smothered and the shrimp are peeled and deveined you can proceed with the gumbo. All that’s left to do is to add the shrimp and broth to simmer and you have a delicious pot of goodness.
Thickened with smothered okra instead of a roux makes this Shrimp and Okra Gumbo gluten-free and lower in fat and calories. The sweetness of the tomatoes and shrimp along with the Cajun trinity blends into a rich flavor that’s sure to please.
7–8 cups fresh or frozen okra, chopped
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
3 pods garlic, pressed
1–14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes or 2 cups of fresh tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
32 ounces or 4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
dash of kitchen bouquet, optional
To smother okra, pour oil into a large heavy pot and add okra. Cook on medium/low heat stirring occasionally careful not to burn okra. Cook until okra is no longer slimy which takes about an hour. Add onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic, and tomatoes. Cook for 20 minutes more. Add salt and pepper. For gumbo, stir shrimp into smothered okra and cook for 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and water and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Small amounts of water can be added to adjust the thickness of gumbo. Taste to adjust seasoning. Add Kitchen Bouquet as a browning agent if needed. Serve over cooked rice.
Vegetables can be chopped and the shrimp peeled and cleaned while okra is cooking on the stove. Kitchen Bouquet can be added if you find the gumbo is too light. Such may be the case if using frozen okra. Smothering large amounts of okra to store in the freezer makes cooking this gumbo quick and easy any time of the year.
Serving Size:1 cup
All great change in America begins at the dinner table. Ronald Reagan