Chef John Besh owns 12 restaurants around the country, including 10 right in his hometown of New Orleans. He's a fixture on television, and has written four cookbooks, including his latest: "Besh Big Easy" (Andrews McMeel). He's offered up this classic Louisiana dish for "Sunday Morning" viewers.
"When I say I cook at home more and more like my mother and grandmother did, this gumbo is a great example," he wrote. "Cooking it makes me so happy! I get that deep shellfish flavor from cooking the crabs at least 45 minutes before adding the other seafood. It's all about tasting, adjusting the flavors, and really just cooking from your heart."
Mamma's Seafood Gumbo from chef John Besh
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup flour
2 large onions, chopped
6 blue crabs, quartered
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 quarts Shrimp or Shellfish Stock (recipe below)
2 cups sliced okra
1 tablespoon fresh or dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
4 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons from My Creole Spice Jar (recipe below)
Salt and pepper
1 pound medium wild American shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pint shucked oysters and their liquor
1 cup crabmeat
6 cups white rice
Make a roux by heating the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and continue whisking until the roux turns a deep brown color, about 15 minutes.
Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to medium low and continue stirring until the roux turns a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes. Add the blue crabs and stir for a minute to toast the shells, then add the celery and garlic. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the stock, okra, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat from the surface of the gumbo (moving the pot half off the burner helps collect the impurities).
Add the sausage and green onions to the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Season well with the Creole spices, salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Add the shrimp, oysters and their liquor, and crabmeat to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Serve with rice.
Shellfish or Shrimp Stock (a variation on his Chicken Stock)
Making stock is not complicated. I freeze the carcasses from every chicken I roast and make stock when I have enough of them. I start by putting the carcasses in a stockpot. Often I'll brown some chicken and/or turkey wings in the oven (about 1 pound of bones total), and throw them into the pot as well. I then add a couple of chopped carrots and celery stalks along with a few cloves of crushed garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Then I pour in enough cool water to cover the bones by a few inches and bring to a boil. Then simply simmer for about 2 hours. Strain it all and you're done. (And remember, in a pinch, do as so many New Orleans home cooks do: use water).
For Shellfish Stock: Use 1 pound shells from shrimp, blue crab, crawfish, or lobster.
For Shrimp Stock: Use 1 pound shrimp heads and shells.
My Creole Spice Jar
I promised not to get too fussy with ingredients in this book, but in my heart of hearts, I really believe you need this simple spice mix to infuse your cooking with authentic flavor.
2 tablespoons celery salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground allspice
Mix it together in a small jar, shake it up well, and use it to season your gumbos (and soups and stews). It'll last for months.
For more info:
- Willa Jean, New Orleans
- "Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes" by John Besh (Andrews McMeel). Click here to order from Amazon
- Follow @ChefJohnBesh on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
- Follow the John Besh Foundation on Facebook
- Chefs Move! The John Besh & Bride Mayor Scholarship