Is it bad that I am literally going off a decades old movie to figure this one out? Forrest Gump taught me the endless possibilities of shrimp with gumbo being the most prominent. It sounds enticing, but what even is gumbo? I'll tell you later.
Before I made this I just thought it was a thicker, spicier soup. That is basically what I did. I also wanted to challenge myself because I don't think I've ever cooked shrimp before and wanted to peel it and devein it all by myself. Well... I learned. It was kind of gross cleaning poop off of raw shrimp, but after a while it was a little bit of fun. Don't get any ideas. Fish and I rarely get along. When we do, however, it usually involves the said fish being drowned in breading and hot oil deliciousness, so much so that you can no longer taste the fish. Fried shrimp is often the only way I can tolerate it so I am no longer thinking about that little demon swimming about the ocean just pooping along. With that said, I'm not a fish girl. But I can't let that stop me from knowing and perfecting ways to cook it.
Half pound raw shrimp (frozen or fresh, whatever!)
Half a spanish onion
3 cloves of garlic
5 pieces of okra
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
1 Serrano chili
1 stalk of celery
1 box seafood stock
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 Tbs Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
3 Tbs of olive oil
S & P to taste
Start by chopping up all your gorgeous vegetables. You want to prep them before you turn up the heat. Timing is really essential for this one pot dish and you don't want any veggie getting burned or overcooked. Finely mince the garlic and dice the onions. Roughly chop up the peppers. I like bigger pieces of pepper, but go with whatever your preference is. For the Serrano chili, be wary of the seeds. You want to split it in half first, then run a knife down the middle of it to remove all the seeds and bitter white innards. If you don't remove the seeds this gumbo is going to be wayyyyyy too hot. I may have left some seeds in when I made it and had a few complaints about the crazy spiciness. One friend thought it was perfect, but he's also a spice fiend. Dice up the celery and the carrots. Remember to cut the ends off the okra and leave the chunks about a quarter inch thick to avoid breakage in the pot.
Once all your veggies are chopped nicely, grab your shrimp! Make sure its defrosted, deveined, the shell is peeled off, and that you remove the tails. Don't forget this step -- people do not want to have to pull off the tail themselves in a really freakin' hot gumbo.
Combine the flour and half a tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning in a small bowl or sturdy plate. Take your exposed shrimp and put them all in there. Gentle toss the shrimp around so that they are all covered. Leave to the side to be dealt with later.
Get the biggest sauce pot you have and add the olive oil. Turn the heat up to a medium high and add the garlic and onions. Once the onions begin softening and everything starts to sizzle, add the yellow and orange peppers as well as the chopped (seedless) Serrano chili. Add the carrots and celery. The okra goes in last because it's most susceptible to breakage, so be careful when sauteéing it all around. I learned this when I put the okra in first and broke all of them :(
The colors in your pot are going to be gorgeous...
A masterpiece... really.
Now that your veggies are softening and getting all delicious, push them off to one side of the pot. Place your shrimp directly on to the pot so they get to cook a bit. Flip each one over after a minute or so. Once the shrimp start becoming pink, add the whole box of seafood stock to the pot. Stir it up and let it come to a light boil. As its boiling, add the tomato paste and stir until well-combined. The stock will start to thicken and start boiling again. And when that's achieved, lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Now...
LOOK at all the beautiful spices we are about to throw into this simmering feast! This is always my favorite part of any soup, stock or sauce cooking. Add all of these as mentioned in the ingredient list, including the remainder of the Old Bay seasoning. You can always add more Old Bay because... well... it's Old Bay and you can literally never have enough. #OldBay
You've tossed in your spices? You're basically done! Let it gently boil for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occassionally.
Don't forget to take those bay leaves out before serving! Nobody would appreciate a leaf in their mouth. Nobody.
You did it. You made shrimp gumbo. Now how easy was that? Almost way too easy.