While there are dozens of Creole and Cajun gumbos in Louisiana, this unique variation gives the dish a whole new dimension and becomes one of those comfort food entrees that—as the old expression goes—“sticks to your ribs” in both summer and winter.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 strips hickory-smoked bacon, chopped
2 packages sliced, frozen okra, 16-ounce size
2 cans chopped tomatoes, 14.5 ounce size
1 -1/2 cups store-bought chopped vegetable seasoning
1 cup frozen yellow corn
2 teaspoons seafood seasoning
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup vegetable or seafood stock
4 whole bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 pounds 51-60 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup small diced ham
1 pound tiny elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped for garnish
1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced for garnish
Put a 5-quart heavy cast iron Dutch oven on the stove top over medium heat. Then fry down the bacon in the vegetable oil until lightly browned and crispy. Remove it from the pot and set it aside for a while.
Now drop into the pot the frozen okra and fry it down, too, until the okra begins to brown and the 'rope' starts to disappear (about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally). Then, with the fire still at medium heat, drop in the chopped tomatoes, the vegetable seasoning mix, the corn, the seafood seasoning, they cayenne pepper, the bay leaves, and the dried thyme.
Next, stir everything together well, making sure it is all totally combined. Now reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the gumbo simmer for about 20-25 minute or until the veggies are tender.
At this point, drop in the shrimp and the ham, stir them into the mixture, cover the pot, and let the pot of gumbo simmer once more for about 10 minutes.
When you're ready to eat, spoon out a generous helping of elbow macaroni in a large soup bowl, ladle the gumbo over the pasta, and garnish the bowl with a scattering of parsley and green onions and top off the dish with a light sprinkling of bacon.
Traditionally, gumbos, regardless of the kind, are served over hot, steamed, white rice. But not this one. The elbow macaroni lends a different dimension and rounds out the depth of flavor.
If you can find really tender, young okra at, say, a farmers' market, you can substitute it for the frozen stuff. But make certain the pods are young and tender otherwise the okra will turn out tasting tough and 'woody.'
It is perfectly permissible to use 'fresh' tomatoes (preferably Roma) when making this recipe. Just remember to peel and de-seed the tomatoes before dicing them an smothering them down in the Dutch oven.
In lieu of frozen corn on the cob, you may also prefer to use fresh corn. Simply strip off the kernels (along with the corn 'milk') and blend them into the other ingredients, allowing them to smother long enough to soften and tenderize the hulls.