First you make a roux, unless you're like me and buy the stuff in a jar.
If that's the case, then the first thing you do is make a stock. The way I do it is pretty simple. Fill a large stock pot (6 quarts) at least half way with the following ingerdients:
- 8 to 12 fresh crabs - I was able to find some blue crabs at the Ranch 99 in Clairmont Mesa.
- a quartered onion.
- a few rough-cut stalks of celery.
- several garlic cloves.
- a few sprigs of parsley tied with string.
- a quartered lemon.
- a few bay leaves.
Fill the pot with water; bring the mixture to a boil; then cover and simmer for half an hour or so, until the veggies are very soft and translucent.
Once the stock is done, remove everything from the liquid and separate the crabs from the vegetables (I do this with a slotted spoon and tongs). Throw away the vegetables but keep the crabs in a bowl off to the side. Run the stock through a fine strainer, then again with a paper towel lining the strainer. Change the paper towel often to keep the stock flowing.
Now it's time to turn the stock into gumbo.
In a large pot, sauté a couple of chopped onions, a few stalks of chopped celery and a couple cloves of finely chopped garlic until the onions are golden and somewhat transluscent.
Add the stock to the pot, and bring to a boil. Using two tablespoons of roux for every quart of stock (use a little more for a thicker gumbo), mix the roux in a separate pot or bowl with a couple of cups of stock to make a paste, then add the mixture to the large pot. (For you purists out there who are mortified to learn that I buy my roux from a store and aparently have nothing better to do with your life than waste hours stiring at the stove, here's a great roux-making Web site.)
Make sure that all of the roux is incorporated into the stock. This is crucial. Any roux that doesn't mix thoroughly can settle on the bottom and burn. (I learned this lesson the hard way when making a massive pot of gumbo a few years ago during a family LSU football tailgate outing.)
Season the gumbo with thyme, sage, a couple of bay leaves and cayenne pepper. Add a couple of diced red bell peppers and the big front claws from the boiled crabs. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 to 45 minutes. (If you like okra in your seafood gumbo this is when you should add a cup or two of the chopped vegetable.)
While you're waiting for the gumbo to cook, clean the crab bodies of meat.
About 15 minutes before serving, add the crab meat (I usually buy a little extra from the store to throw in), at least two pounds of fresh shrimp, a pint or more of oysters (including the oyster liquor), and a cup each of chopped green onions and parsley. You can also throw in a pound of crawfish if that makes you happy.
Serve with a little rice, filé and your favorite hot sauce.