Shrimp and ham are a classic pairing, but this gumbo contains little else that’s traditional. While most gumbos are thickened with roux and flavored with the “Cajun Trinity” of bell peppers, onions, and celery, this gumbo has neither, proving that sometimes shaking up tradition can be a good thing.
What to buy: Some grocery stores carry shell-on shrimp that are deveined, meaning the intestinal tract that runs up the back of each shimp has been removed. Deveining is optional in this recipe, but if prefer it, you may need to clean the shrimp yourself.
Fresh okra works best in this dish, acting as the thickener, but you can also use frozen sliced okra. When cooking it, especially the fresh variety, don’t be alarmed by the glutinous clear liquid it emits, which is normal. Some cooks add a touch of vinegar to cut the slime; younger, smaller pods have less of it.
Tasso is cured pork, usually shoulder, that’s rubbed with a mixture of filé and other spices, then smoked. It’s a Cajun specialty that adds a lot of character to this dish, but if you have a hard time finding it, you can substitute pancetta or another variety of ham; or get it online from CajunGrocer.com.
- 1Peel shrimp and place shells in a medium saucepan; (if desired) devein cleaned shrimp, cover, and refrigerate. Add water to shrimp shells and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer gently for 30 minutes; strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding shells, and reserve stock.
For the gumbo base:
- 1Heat oil in a large, shallow, heavy pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in okra and tasso, and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- 2Cook, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender and begining to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in onions, garlic, tomatoes, and bay leaf, scraping up any browned bits that have adhered to the bottom of the pan.
- 3Reduce heat to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and breaking up, about 30 minutes.
- 4Add cayenne and reserved shrimp stock (4 cups), and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 30 to 45 minutes.
- 5Stir in reserved shrimp; cook until shrimp are opaque and no longer raw in the center, about 10 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning, and add salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary.
- 6Serve over cooked white rice, and pass hot sauce such as Tabasco on the side.