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Foothills: Morgan Fraser gumbo

When I compiled Savoring Leavenworth, a wine-pairing cookbook for the Upper Valley, the recipes I received from Rob Newsom became some of my favorites. Rob is the owner and winemaker at Boudreaux Cellars. His food — made with the southern flair of his roots — is just as delicious and memorable as his wine.

Although gumbo is more likely to be something you’d see on a menu in Louisiana, Rob’s version of this rich, spicy stew is the perfect accompaniment to a North Central Washington winter day, especially if you’ve been out skiing or snowshoeing. It’s one of those dishes that is even better the next day, after the flavors marry a bit more.

The secret is in the stock, which you make from the shells you peel off the shrimp. I cannot stress enough how important this homemade shrimp stock is in creating the rich depth of flavor you’ll enjoy. That being said, you don’t need to make the shrimp stock the same day. If you’re short on time, it’s better to make the stock the day before and give it as much time to simmer as you can. I’ve also left the stock in a crock pot overnight to cook. If you take that route, make sure to keep the water level high and the pot covered to reduce evaporation.

Prep time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Stock cook time: 1-3 hours

Cook time: 1-3 hours

4 lbs. peeled shrimp, shells reserved

1 gallon + 4 cups water (20 cups)

1 cup canola or safflower oil

1 cup rice flour

2 large onions, diced

10 cloves garlic, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 lb. okra, chopped (3-4 cups)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

4 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

12 oz. can whole tomatoes, or 8 fresh tomatoes, halved

1 lb. crab meat or 1 lb. peeled crawfish tails

2 lb. package rice

Peel the shrimp, rinse and refrigerate. In a 2-gallon pot, add shrimp shells to 20 cups boiling water. Boil uncovered on medium-high heat for 1-3 hours. After cooking, strain out the shells and discard them.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot enough that a droplet of water sizzles in it, quickly stir in the flour. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, until the flour is quite brown — about 10 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, celery, okra, and butter and cook until the vegetables have sautéed slightly, about 5 minutes.

Pour 12 cups of shrimp stock into a large and heavy pot (not cast iron). Add the roux/veggie mix. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, cayenne, bay leaves, thyme, basil, paprika and tomatoes. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 1-3 hours; the longer the better. Add the shrimp and crab 5-7 minutes before serving. The shrimp is ready when it turns pink. Remove bay leaves and adjust seasonings as needed.

While the gumbo simmers, cook the rice according to package directions, using the remaining shrimp stock and additional water as needed. Serve gumbo over rice with French bread.

Yield: 10 servings

Morgan Fraser writes about local food, wine and cider in North Central Washington. She also teaches community Spanish classes for kids and adults in the Upper Valley through her business, Leavenworth Spanish.