We all have our traditions and one of my favorites is my Christmas Eve gathering with my cousins, grandparents and extended family. As long as I can remember, we've come together every year and spent time cooking together, laughing, and reminiscing about when we were kids.
The matriarch of our family was Annie Louise, or Nanny as we called her. She was an excellent cook and always full of sass! She made sure that all of her grandchildren felt special and loved. Year after year, we gather around the table and enjoy her famous Seafood Gumbo. Hailing from Louisiana, Nanny made a roux that was the perfect caramel color, and the filé at the end added just the right notes. It amazes me that all of us, ranging from infant to teen, would dig in to the dark pot of oysters and crab without trepidation! Even today, my children love it!
Her original recipe was written down on a piece of white paper and given to my mother, Debbie. (Mom's notes are visible on the sides!) Over the years, the paper has collected more than a few splatters and spots. Anyone who has ever made a true gumbo knows that it's a labor of love and not a simple task. Mastering a roux is a true art and not something that comes without some practice!
Through the years, the recipe has evolved with the times and ingredients have been added and taken away. My cousin, Carolyne Van Lierop Boone, has a fantastic version that I think has just he right amount of spice. I am including both versions below for your enjoyment. (Fun fact: When Carolyne isn't in the kitchen, she and her husband Troy can be found on stage as part of the Amanda Cook bluegrass band!)
From Tradition to Inspiration
Kindly Crafted was actually inspired by our family gumbo tradition. In order to preserve the original recipe as well as some of the new adaptations, I learned to use Adobe Illustrator to digitally trace the handwritten originals. Nanny’s recipe was the very first recipe I ever laser engraved!
Creating that beautifully crafted board for my family made me feel proud and nostalgic. We lost my grandmother in 1998, and I always smile when I glance at her handwriting displayed in my kitchen. She loved cooking for her family and would be so proud that all of us continue to carry on her traditions together at Christmas.
Nanny’s Original Gumbo Recipe
- 1 cup cooking oil
- 1 cup flour
- 8 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 large red onions, chopped
- 1 lb of okra, cut
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 ounce Tabasco sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp salt
- 4 slices of bacon or ham1 ½ lb shrimp (cleaned and deheaded)
- 2 lbs crab meat
- 1 quart oysters
- gumbo filé
- Pour 1 cup cooking oil into a large frying pan over low heat.
- Add 1 cup sifted flour slowly. Stir constantly to brown evenly.
- Then add chopped celery, red onion, okra and garlic to the pan. Brown the vegetables in the roux.
- Remove from heat and pour into 1 gallon of simmering water. Stir.
- Add one cup Worcestershire sauce, ¼ cup soy sauce, 1 ounce Tabasco sauce, ½ cup ketchup, 2 tbsp salt, and 4 slices of bacon or lean ham.
- Cook on a low boil for 2½ hours.
- Add 1½ lbs shrimp. 2 lbs crab meat, one quart of oysters. Cook until seafood is done (approximately half an hour).
- Remove from heat and sprinkle the top with ¼ to ½ cup of gumbo file. Keep warm. Serve in bowls over rice. 10-12 servings
Carolyne’s Seafood Gumbo
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 8 slices of thick cut bacon
- 2 lbs andouille sausage
- 3 lbs lump crab meat (picked clean)
- 3 lbs shrimp (cleaned and deheaded)
- 16 stalks celery chopped
- 6 red onions chopped
- 2 lbs okra
- 4-6 cloves of garlic minced
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups Worcestershire
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 2 – 4 oz Crystal Hot Sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- 2 gallons chicken stock
- Cook on medium heat for around 45 minutes. Add two cups of flour to two cups of oil. Whisk constantly!! Be careful not to let the roux burn!! This should be a nice caramel color when done.
- Add celery, onion, garlic and okra to roux. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for approximately 45 minutes until okra has dissolved. Stir continuously or it will burn. Cook at Medium heat.
- Add two gallons of chicken stock and combine roux. Stir until there are no clumps. Turn heat to medium high.
- Next add Worcestershire, soy, Crystal, ketchup, bacon, whole chicken thighs, and sausage slices to liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Cook at a slow boil for 2.5 hours. (chicken will shred on its own so there is no need to chop). After base has cooked for 2.5 hours, the base can be refrigerated if planning on cooking the day before. Make sure the base cooled completely before chilling. When reheating base, make sure to stir often so chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom of pot.
- Lastly, add crab and shrimp then cook until shrimp has turned pink.