In the Gumbo Pot:

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 cup coarsely diced onions
3/4 cup coarsely diced celery
1/2 cup coarsely diced bell pepper
2 tsp. finely minced garlic

In the Skillet:

6 strips thick-sliced bacon, cut in small pieces
2 lbs. frozen okra, cut and thawed
2 cans Rotel Diced Tomatoes with chilies (12-ounce size)

Later, In the Gumbo Pot:

6 cups homemade shrimp stock (or chicken stock)
3/4 cup white wine
2 cups water as needed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. sweet basil
1/2 tsp. powdered thyme
1 tsp. red pepper flakes, if desired
2 tsp. Kosher or sea salt
2 tsp. Frank Davis Seafood Seasoning
4 lbs. peeled and deveined shrimp (36-40 count)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 lb. long grain rice (cooked al dente)

Start off by placing the gumbo pot on the stove top, turning the fire up to medium-high, and heating the vegetable oil until it begins to sizzle. Then, a little at a time, briskly whisk in the flour until it has all been added and it begins to brown. Keep moving the flour around in the pot until it reaches a deep tan color (but be careful not to let it burn or scorch).

At that point, drop in the seasoning vegetables (onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic), reduce the fire to low, and incorporate all the veggies into the darkening roux. In other words, mix, mix, and mix again! Then immediately move the gumbo pot off the fire and set it aside for a while.

In the meantime, in a 12-inch, high-sided skillet over medium high heat, cook down the bacon pieces until they wilt and render out their pan drippings and become crunchy and crusty. Then, without reducing the heat, stir in the cut okra and begin pan-frying it, stirring continually, until the edges of the okra begin to toast lightly (expect this to take about 12 minutes or so). One note here: don't worry about cooking out the okra 'slime.' That will take care of itself later in the cooking process.

When the okra begins to toast evenly, stir into the skillet the Rotel tomatoes and cook them into the mixture until thoroughly blended. And yes...use the liquid the tomatoes come packed in, too!

At this time,everything gets transferred to the gumbo pot. The bacon, drippings, okra, and tomatoes now get stirred into the tan roux and the seasoning vegetables you cooked in the gumbo pot. And while you're at it, go ahead and add the next nine ingredients-the stock, the wine, the water, the bay leaves, the basil, the thyme, the red pepper flakes, the sea salt, and the seafood seasoning.

Keep in mind that it is important to stir thoroughly at this stage-(1) you want to completely dissolve and smooth out the roux to keep lumps out of the gumbo, and (2) you want to fully disperse the ingredients into the liquids to cause them to blend and balance the overall flavor. When this is done, reduce the flame to low, cover the pot tightly, and simmer the gumbo base for about 20 minutes to get all the ingredients to marry.
Then when the flavors have combined and peaked, toss in the raw shrimp and stir the entire pot once again for continuity. Remember that the shrimp will be ready to eat in just a matter of minutes, so be careful that you don't overcook them (about 5 to 6 minutes should be all it takes!)

Finally, just before you plan to serve the gumbo, once more check the thickness and texture (and the seasonings). Add extra water, wine, or chicken stock if the gumbo has become too thick; or work in a little extra roux if it has turned out too thin. All that's left to do, then, is to sprinkle on the green onions and the parsley and fold everything together one last time.

This gumbo is best when ladled over steaming hot rice in deep soup bowls, surrounded by either sesame-studded bread sticks, multi-grain saltine crackers, or hot buttered French bread right from the oven.
Chef's Hints
1. Once again, don't overcook the shrimp. The moment they turn a rich pink, they're done! Overcooking makes them tough and rubbery.

2. The worst thing you can do to this gumbo is to thicken the liquid to resemble a heavy sauce. The broth should barely have body, and only enough of it to coat the shrimp and rice. Let's put it this way--if you're satisfied that what you have is a 'semi-thick soup,' you're right on! Not all gumbos have to boast heavy gravies.

3. If you' like the gumbo to be a tad darker than the roux caused it to be, feel free to stir in a little Kitchen Bouquet to color the stock. It adds flavor without altering the integrity of the dish.

4. A real culinary trick-want to get a richer, more shrimpy flavor in the gumbo? Fry down a handful of sun-dried shrimp in the bacon drippings when you do the okra. The hot oil (in this case, bacon fat) releases the essence of the shrimp and intensifies the locked in flavor. Later, as the stock simmers and cooks, the dried shrimp virtually disappear into the liquids.

5. To make homemade shrimp stock, wash the shrimp shells and heads thoroughly under cold running water, then place them into a stockpot and simmer them over a low flame for about an hour. The final flavor will be intense. Try not to let the shrimp water boil-the stock will remain clear that way. And for an even richer taste, toast the shells and heads in a 450 degree oven before making homemade stock.