Gumbo is a slow-simmered stovetop dish, a cross between thick soup and stew, that is traditionally served over plain white rice in Louisiana. It is a close cousin to the callaloo of Trinidad (usually made with okra and crab or chicken). In some ways it is most like the sauce dishes served over rice in West Africa, with their combinations of vegetables, a little meat or fish or smoked oysters, and lots of flavorful sauce to help the rice go down.
The word gumbo comes from gombo, a West African word for “okra.” A classic gumbo starts with fat (chicken fat, pork lard, or bacon drippings) and some flour to make a roux. Once the roux has browned, celery, green peppers, and onions are added and cooked (like a Spanish sofrito) until soft. From there, methods vary. Often, as here, okra is added and slow cooked with very little or no extra liquid until well softened and starting to brown. If chicken or sausage (andouille) are used, they go in early; when there’s only shrimp, as here, it is added near the end of cooking. The dish cooks and simmers until done, the okra helping to thicken the sauce and the slow-simmering giving the flavors time to blend.
In this shrimp gumbo, the okra is cooked down, then the broth is added and flavored with wine or lemon juice, and the shrimp briefly boiled until cooked. Serve hot over Plain Long-Grain Rice or Plain Cuban Rice.