Read the entire recipe so you understand the process and start this dish at least one night before serving. It's definitely worth the work and the wait.
Many Seafood Okra Gumbos have chicken and sausage added, and creole versions have tomatoes. This one doesn't, it has just the seasonings and seafood. I also cook down the okra with the seasonings so there is no "slime", and people who normally don't like okra have raved over this version.
This makes a HUGE batch so break down the the recipe to 1/3 for the first try.
In a large crockpot, add all of the chopped vegetables, bay leaves and parsley; pour oil and water over the top. Don't stir. Cover and set cooker to high for 2 hours or until bubbling, then set it to low and cook 6 more hours (while you sleep). This not only cooks all the slime out of the okra but also cooks down the seasonings without having to stand over the stove for hours, stirring constantly.
Alternate Method: set cooker on low for 9-10 hours (while you sleep).
Make the Shrimp Stock - In a very large soup pot put all the shrimp heads and peels along with the remaining stock ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. Remove from heat and strain the solids out of the stock and discard. Use the stock for the gumbo and freeze and leftover stock for future use. (If you have a vent fan over your cooktop, turn it on high. It will not only smell like a full blown shrimp boil inside your house, but it will clean out your sinuses. I just happen to love the smell.)
First You Make A Roux - Most roux recipes call for equal parts oil and flour but it makes for a more liquid roux and leave unused oil floating in the finished product. I prefer to make a thick roux base where just about all of the fat is consumed by flour. At first it will be very thick but not chalky and all of the flour will be absorbed by the fat. As the roux begins to cook and brown, lower the heat and continue to stir or whisk. It will become smoother and a little thinner but still won't have excess fat in it. Remember, the darker the roux the less thickening power it has.
To begin the roux, in a large gumbo pot or soup pot heat oil just until hot, but not burning, and whisk in the flour, removing all lumps. Over medium to medium-low heat continue to frequently stir to keep flour from browning too fast. If your fire is too high the flour will burn (you will smell it). If this happens THROW IT OUT and start over with a lower heat. Gumbo is too expensive to ruin on burnt roux! Cook the roux until it is just a little darker than peanut butter. The darker the roux, the harsher the flavor, which is too strong for the delicate seafood. If you like your gumbo to "look" darker, add Kitchen Bouquet to the gumbo. It doesn't take three days to make a great roux but you don't want to rush it either. Making roux takes a little patience but it's not that difficult even for the beginner.
Finishing Off the Gumbo - If you're using oysters, strain the liquor through a strainer lined with a paper towel and reserve liquid. Discard grit and shell pieces. Refrigerate oysters and liquor until ready to use.
To your perfect roux add the cooked down vegetables from the crock pot and enough shrimp stock, (or other liquids), to bring the gumbo to desired thickness. Don't start it out too thick because it will thicken a little as it simmers. At this point add the gumbo crabs only, NOT THE CRAB MEAT OR SHRIMP. If the gumbo becomes too thick, add more liquid and stir frequently. When the mixture begins to gently boil reduce heat, add the crab meat and simmer on low for at least 30-45 minutes, gently stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. The longer you simmer the gumbo the better it gets.
Taste for seasoning, and add salt, black & red pepper, & tobasco to taste. ** At this point if you're not going to serve the gumbo until the next day turn the fire off and add the raw shrimp. Stir well, cover pot and let cool down. When it's cool enough put gumbo in refrigerator overnight. The next day heat up as much as you need for that meal. The shrimp will finish cooking and won't get tough. Again, taste and adjust seasonings as needed because the shrimp will absorb a lot of salt and seasonings from the gumbo.
If you're going to serve it the same day you make it, add the shrimp and simmer the gumbo for 20-30 minutes. Taste again and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve over white rice with crusty french bread. Garnish with sliced green onions if desired. Enjoy!
Fast Roux Tips - In a large glass microwave safe bowl or mixing bowl you can add the oil/butter and flour, whisk well to remove lumps and cook on high for 2 mintues. Stir. Cook again for 2 minutes and stir. Then cook in 1 minute intervals, stirring well between each cooking segment until desired color is reached. CAREFUL - it will burn quickly so don't cook too fast! The bowl is very hot so be careful when removing from microwave.
If you're using oysters or crawfish tails, add those with the shrimp. This gumbo freezes well.