Granny's Seafood Gumbo
My mother and grandmother asserted that a small amount of tomatoes separated Mobile Creole gumbo from New Orleans Creole gumbo and that your family heritage determined your preference. Our family remains devoted tomato followers.
6 ribs celery, 4 left whole, 2 chopped
1 turkey carcass, bones from bone-in turkey breast (whole or half) with some meat attached, or 6 skin-on chicken pieces (2 backs and 4 wings)
1/2 pound beef sirloin, flank steak or flat iron, optional
1 each: trimmed, chopped, large onion, green pepper
1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth
2 cups water
3 tablespoon Creole seasoning, or to taste
2 bay leaves
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 pounds okra sliced or 1 package (20 ounces) frozen cut okra
8 ounces, sliced smoked Chorizo sausage (Spanish not Mexican) or Polish sausage, sliced
12 ounces best available crabmeat
1 pint Gulf oysters, with liquor, any shell pieces removed
1 1/2 pounds shelled, deveined, medium to large shrimp
Place 4 ribs of celery in the bottom of a slow cooker to serve as a rack; top with turkey carcass, chicken and beef, if using. Add remaining chopped celery, onion and green pepper. Add chicken broth and water. Season with 1 tablespoon of the Creole seasoning. Add bay leaves. Cook on LOW (50 percent) 6 hours.
When gumbo has cooked 6 hours, remove and discard any bones, skin, whole celery ribs.
Heat butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring, until mixture thickens and roux becomes the color of pecans, (careful not to form lumps) about 15 minutes. Gently stir roux into slow cooker. Add crushed tomatoes, okra, sausage slices, remaining 2 tablespoons of Creole seasoning. Cook on LOW (50 percent) until flavors come together, another 5 hours.
Remove beef and shred, if using. Return to gumbo. Taste for seasoning; adjust. Remove and discard any remaining skin and bones. Add crabmeat; cook on LOW (50 percent) 20 minutes. Add oysters and shrimp. Cook on HIGH (100 percent) 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in file, if using. Let stand about 15 minutes before serving in bowls over cooked rice. Makes 10 servings.
My mother made gumbo using both the old-school and slow cooker approach. But it's encouraging to note that after my mother adapted this recipe from her grandmother's more traditional method, it continued to receive enthusiastic "thumbs" up from Creole gumbo connoisseurs.