In this rich, densely flavored gumbo the dark roux provides a complex background to the vegetables, and the rice provides a foil for the intensity of the shellfish stock—with brilliant red crawfish tails garnishing the soup with their buttery sweetness.
Put the crawfish in a large pot and cover with salt water. Swirl the pot around (some say the motion will make them seasick). The crawfish will purge themselves. Dump out the water and throw away any crawfish that have not survived the ordeal. Repeat until the water is clear. Add the seafood boil and lemon to the 5 quarts water and bring to a boil. Add the crawfish and boil, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Drain, pick the tail meat and “fat” from the heads, and refrigerate, covered, for use later. You should have about
Bring the reserved shells and all of the stock ingredients to a boil in a stockpot, lower the heat, and simmer for about 2 hours, skimming foam off the top as necessary. Strain out the solids and discard. Reserve the stock for later use. You should have about 2½ quarts.
To make the gumbo, put the roux in a large pot and heat over medium-high heat until it is hot. Do not let it cook any more or it will burn. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper and stir until the vegetables are well coated with the roux. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. It is important that the roux not burn. Add the okra and stir until it is coated with the roux as well. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring.
Add the tomatoes with their juice and stir well. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Add the herbs, then add the 2½ quarts reserved stock. Lower the heat and simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming if necessary, and breaking up the tomatoes as they cook. Correct the seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce.
To serve, put a big mound of rice in each bowl, cover with a handful of crawfish tails and “fat,” and pour hot gumbo over them. Serve with corn bread and green salad or in smaller bowls as an appetizer.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.