Gumbo cooks are a particular lot - every one has their own preference in terms of how thick, how spicy, whether to use file, tomatoes, or okra. I personally like the sweetness of tomatoes with a smoky roux, and I love using okra to fortify the pot.
If you have never used preserved lemons before, you are in for a real treat. A staple in Moroccan cuisine, preserved lemons add an almost floral, gentle citrus flavor to vegetables, seafood, and meats. They really brighten up gumbo, and with pickled peppers add a bit of tanginess that remind me of pickle-based soups from Eastern Europe. If you can't find preserved lemons at your local Whole Foods Market or North African grocer (they are sometimes carried at Halal shops), they are very easy to make. And if you didn't think ahead to pickle any of the hot peppers from your garden this summer, you can also find them on the olive bar a number of grocery stores.
Enjoy this delicious take on gumbo with fluffy long-grain rice and crusty bread.
2 strips good, thick bacon
2 links fresh andouille sausage (about .10 lbs.), sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped celery stalks and leaves
3/4 cup chopped green peppers
3/4 cup chopped okra
1 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups peeled and chopped fresh roma or canned whole tomatoes, chopped
2 cups seafood stock
1 1/2 cups water
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound fresh shrimp (as local as possible), peeled and de-veined
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemons
3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup pickled hot peppers (depending on the heat of your peppers), like cayenne, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onions
Chopped parsley leave, to serve
1. Heat a heavy bottom pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Fry until crisp and until all of the fat is rendered from the slices. Remove the slices from the heat and set aside.
2. Add the sausage and saute until browned and a a good amount of fat is in the bottom of the pot. Remove the sausage from the pot and set aside.
3. Add the oil to the pan with the flour. Raise the heat to medium high and stir with a wooden spoon (careful not to splash!) until you have a night, dark chocolate brown roux.
4. Add the garlic to the pot and turn the heat back down to medium. Stir for about a minute, then add the onions, peppers, and celery. Stir until the vegetables have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the okra and stir for another minute.
5. Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir to coat the vegetables. Stir for a minute or two until the tomato paste starts to darken and stick to the bottom of the pan.
6. Add about 1/2 cup of the seafood stock to the pot and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen the stuck-on bits. Add the rest of the stock, tomatoes, and water. Next add the sausage and bay leaf.
7. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer the gumbo partially covered. for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the shrimp and simmer just until they turn pink and start to curl, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the preserved lemons and pickled peppers. Simmer for another 10-12 minutes, until the shrimp are fully cooked and the gumbo is fragrant. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped green onions.
8. Serve this gumbo hot with fluffy rice and crusty bread.