This is a big, wonderful, messy meal to serve on one of the first cool fall nights, when crab and shrimp are still plentiful but the oysters aren’t yet good. Louisiana may claim gumbo, which is a West African word for okra, but in fact okra, a member of the genus Hibiscus, entered South Carolina with the slave trade long before Louisiana was settled by Europeans. Lowcountry gumbo eschews the filé powder of the Louisiana version.
To make the stock, partially clean the live crabs, refrigerating the meat-filled body and claws for addition to the gumbo later. Rinse the backs well in water. Peel the shrimp and remove the heads, refrigerating the bodies for use later. Lightly grease the bottom of a large stockpot with the oil, then add the crab backs and cook over high heat until they turn red, stirring frequently. Add the shrimp heads and/or shells and continue cooking over medium-high heat until they turn pink. Add the remaining stock ingredients and cook at a low boil, skimming as necessary, until the desired intensity of flavor is reached. In about an hour it will have reduced to about
To make the gumbo, heat the roux in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper and cook until the onions begin to become transparent, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Add the okra and cook, stirring often, until all the ropiness is gone, about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the hot peppers and reserved stock and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour.
About 30 minutes before serving, cook the rice in a separate pot. Fifteen minutes before serving, add the reserved crab claws and bodies to the gumbo and increase the heat. Five minutes before serving, add the shrimp. Serve in large bowls over fluffy white rice, with hand towels as napkins.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.