Shrimp and Green Tomato Gumbo


From New Southern Kitchen: Traditional Flavors for Contemporary Cooks by Damon Lee Fowler

Here are most of the traditional ingredients of a good seafood gumbo, but with a twist: green tomatoes replace the usual ripe ones. Also, unlike most gumbos, it does not need to simmer for hours on the back of the stove. It goes together quickly—less than an hour from start to finish—including all the peeling, chopping, and simmering. The result is tart, clean-flavored, and refreshing. However, it does benefit greatly from being made a day ahead so that the flavors can blend and develop.

3/4 pound young, firm okra
1 1/2 pounds green tomatoes (about 3 large or 4 medium)
1 medium lock
2 tablespoons bacon drippings or extra-virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, trimmed, split, peeled, and chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, lightly crushed, peeled, and minced
1 or 2 small green hot chile peppers (to taste), stemmed, seeds and membranes removed, and minced
3 cups canned broth mixed with 3 cups water (even if the label reads “use full strength”)
1 bouquet garni, made from a leafy celery top, 2 bay leaves, 2 large sprigs thyme, 2 large sprigs parsley
Salt and whole white pepper in a peppermill
1/2 pound (headless weight) shrimp, peeled
1/2 pound crabmeat, picked over to remove any bits of shell
2 lemons
1 large or 2 small scallions or other green onions, thinly sliced

1. Wash the okra under cold running water, gently rubbing to remove the fuzz, drain it well, and cut off and discard the caps. Slice the okra crosswise about 1/4 inch thick. Core the tomatoes, and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Split the leek lengthwise and wash it under cold running water with the root pointed upward, rubbing well between the layers to remove all the dirt and grit. Thinly slice both the white and green parts.

2. Put the leek, fat, and onion in a soup kettle that will comfortably hold all the ingredients and turn on the heat to medium-high. Sauté, tossing frequently until the vegetables are translucent and softened, but not colored, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and hot pepper, and sauté until fragrant, abut 1/2 minute. Add the tomatoes, and toss until heated through, then add the okra. Mix well, then slowly add the broth. Add the bouqt garni, a small pinch of salt, and several grindings of white pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to to low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Add the shrimp and crabmeat, and bring the soup back to a simmer. Simmer until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Add the juice from 1/2 lemon, and taste and adjust the seasonings. Cut the remaining lemon into thin slices, and serve the gumbo hot, garnishing each serving with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of scallion.

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course.