Melt the shortening over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Stir in flour and cook to make a roux, stirring constantly, for 30 minutes, or until the flour darkens to a deep gold-brown. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring, until onion begins to caramelize. Stir in okra and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until okra turns golden.
In a kettle, bring 8 cups water to a boil, add the roux mixture, ham, tomatoes, with juice, bell pepper, garlic paste, bay leaf, parsley, thyme, and celery leaves. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally for 50 minutes.
Stir in the shrimp and crab meat and simmer for 5 minutes just until shrimp firm up. Season with cayenne and salt to taste. Remove bay leaf and serve the gumbo.
Makes about 9 cups.
Contributor: pat ciesla
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