Shrimp Gumbo with Okra

Arial of Dauphin Island
Dauphin Island, Pelican Girls and Gumbo

Today I want to share a few really good recipes and a very special event I know everyone would love to attend. For those us us who are lucky enough to live so close to Dauphin Island, this event draws a lot of attention and a lot of good eats, even the Iron Chef himself a couple of years back when Alton Brown stopped by to promote our seafood industry right after the BP incident. Dauphin Island is located to the south of Mobile and on Alabama's Gulf Coast, south of Heron Bay. By car, it is a short ride from the I-10 corridor passing through Mobile and by boat, you can find Dauphin Island by navigating here (N30 15'31, 90" W88 06'47.78).

Now one of the stories in my cookbook, Journal of Mobile's Southern Cookery, is the tale of how the Pelican Girls arrived on Dauphin Island in 1704 and how the french pastries or fried 'bugnes' became a favorite along the region, later finding their way to New Orleans (we now call the sweet version beignets). The recipe for a fried Seafood Cheddar Beignet follows the story in the book. In short, the Pelican Girls were brought over for fraternization with the French soldiers and settlers of Mobile which at the time, was the capital of Louisiana. With the Pelican Girls came a very valuable ingredient in southern cookery - Okra. And as told, it is here, on Dauphin Island, where a French-Canadian housekeeper and cook for Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de’ Bienville made a fish stew using the okra from the African slaves of West Indies along with native filĂ© powder made from dried sassafras leaves. Thus, Gumbo came into existence and it is here, on Dauphin Island where such an event should be celebrated historically.

First, about the Festival.

 2013 Gumbo Festival Schedule

Friday – 3/22:

Learn the art of making gumbo from local chefs and gumbo aficionados by visiting five different locations to enjoy live cooking demonstrations, gumbo tasting and live music.

Saturday – 3/23:
The Arts & Crafts Festival runs from 9AM-4:30PM
Children’s Activity Area fun is open 11AM-4:30PM
Enjoy live music from 11:30AM-4:30PM
and the Gumbo Cook-Off and sampling is from 11AM-2PM

All located at the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo Headquarters – 531 Lemonyne Dr.

Enjoy the music of:
Marc Broussard & Bonerama
with special guest Ryan Balthrop

Sunday – 3/24:
West End Beach party
Battle of the Bands
Sandcastle Contest
Beach volleyball
Children's Activities
10AM- 5PM
Tickets $12 advance / $15 gate
Children 6-12 $5
Purchase Advance Tickets here

Also on the island– 

Alabama Gulf Seafood Tasting Tour

Visit Island restaurants during the designated times on the tasting tour and receive a free sample of their Alabama Gulf Seafood specialty. Free and open to the public. *While samples last* Look for the signs!

Saturday 12-6 pm -Skinners Seafood (1100 Bienville)
Saturday 1-4 pm -Lighthouse Bakery (919 Chaumant)
Saturday 3-5 pm -JT’s Sunset Grill (1102 Desoto Ave)
Saturday 8-10 pm- Bienville Bar & Grill (1614 Bienville) Live Music with Justin Fobes
Saturday 4-6 pm- Dauphin Island Chevron & Grill (1000 Bienville)
Sunday 3-5pm- Islanders Restaurant (1504 Bienville) Live Music with Brett LaGrave
Sunday 1-4 pm -Dauphin Island BBQ (906 Bienville)
Sunday 11-5 pm- West End Beach Party- (West end of Bienville)

Now for my recipes:

I make a Shrimp Gumbo much like Dove Gumbo, meaning with a blond to medium roux and very little 'additive' ingredients other than the trinity and a little Creole love. I think the main ingredient should be the forefront of the dish, Alabama shrimp, and the roux is used as a binder as with the okra rather than an added depth as we do when making our seafood gumbos using the nuttier, dark Creole brick colored roux.
Shrimp Gumbo with Okra
bowl of Gumbo from Mobile Bay area -
or in Beinville's times, this would be Gumbo Fevi aux Chevretes

2 pounds medium (31-50 count) Alabama shrimp, raw with heads intact
1 cup dry white wine (I use dry Vermouth)
1 bouquet garni
1/4 cup lard, Crisco or cooking oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup diced onion
2/3 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
8-10 garlic toes, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
2 cups sliced (1/2-inch) fresh okra or 1 -20 oz bag frozen
2 sprigs of thyme (about 1 teaspoon fresh minced)
1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves (or 2 medium)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 quarts hot shrimp stock
1 quart hot chicken stock

Serve with:
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Several varying bottles of hot sauce
White rice

Start by deheading the shrimp and peeling away the shell (and tail) from each shrimp. Place the shells and heads in a stockpot and add a bouquet garni made with 3 sprigs of parsley, a sprig of thyme and several tender sprigs of oregano. Cover with about 2 1/2 quarts of water, the Vermouth and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for an hour. Meanwhile, devein the shrimp if desired and begin the roux although you must not astray while making roux as constant stirring is crucial. When shrimp stock has cooked, strain through a fine mesh sieve or use a linen lined colander for a clearer stock. Reserve stock and keep warm adding water to make 2 quarts; discard the solids.

In a large, heavy stockpot over medium high heat, add the lard and when heated, quickly stir in the flour. Stir using a wooden paddle lifting the flour mixture from the bottom of the pot constantly until a the roux turns a light brown (color of light brown sugar) to medium (color of peanut butter). Reduce heat to medium and stir in the onions. Stir until onions are soften and add the celery, bell pepper, garlic, parsley, tomato and okra. Cook about 5 minutes stirring occasionally to keep okra from sticking.

Add the thyme, ground bay leaves, the two ground peppers, salt, and slowly incorporate the shrimp stock adding a little at a time until blended. Stir in the chicken stock and decrease heat to low. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until the okra begins to break down. Add the shrimp and and cook covered 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to set 10 minutes.

Serve with white rice and garnish with green onion, parsley and hot pepper sauce if desired.

Here are some other recipes:
Gulf Coast Seafood Gumbo
Chicken and Cajun Sausage Gumbo
Cajun Duck and Sausage Gumbo
Making a Good Roux


  1. Well that festival sure looks like a lot of fun! And thanks for the history behind beignets and the Pelicans girls. And that seafood gumbo looks scrumptious and I would love a big bowl right now for breakfast! Great post and recipe!


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