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Shrimp and Crab Gumbo

This is a very simple but wonderful gumbo! Impress your family and friends, and make sure you splurge on some good lump crabmeat -- don't use canned!

1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound okra, trimmed and sliced
1 gallon shrimp stock
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
3 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 pounds fresh lump crabmeat, picked over
6 cups cooked Louisiana long-grain white rice (Ellis Stansel's Gourmet Rice from Gueydan, Louisiana is great)

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot and add the flour. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, to a light brown if you want it Creole-style, and to a dark, almost milk chocolate color if you want it Cajun-style. Just before the roux reaches the proper color, add the vegetables and stir like hell, being careful not to spatter yourself. When the vegetables are tender, add the stock, salt, and peppers. Stir until the roux is dissolved, and simmer over low heat for one hour.

Add the shrimp about 5 minutes before serving, then add the crabmeat by the handful (it's a lot of fun to just dump in all that wonderful sweet crabmeat with your bare hands), then cook over low heat just until the shrimp turn pink and the crabmeat is warmed through. Serve in large soup or gumbo bowls over about 1/2 cup of cooked rice per serving.

YIELD: 10-12 servings.