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Prep Time: 1 Hour
Yields: 12 Servings

Janie Luster of the Houma nation is not only a great historian helping to preserve her culture, but also she, like her parents before, is a great cook. The Native Americans in her area made a gumbo using filé powder or the ground leaves of the sassafras tree as the thickening agent rather than the dark brown roux of the Cajuns and Creoles. A gumbo with no roux may sound strange at first, but I think you'll soon succumb to Janie's version

3 pounds (50-60 count) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 tbsps filé powder or ground sassafras leaves, divided
3 tbsps vegetable oil
2 cups diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced mixed, red, yellow and green bell peppers
2 tbsps minced garlic
3 quarts water or seafood stock
½ cup sliced green onion tops
¼ cup chopped parsley
salt and black pepper to taste
granulated garlic to taste

In a large cast iron pot, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat, making sure the oil is hot. Add onions in several batches, stirring occasionally, and cook 5-10 minutes or until wilted and golden brown around the outer edges. Do not over-brown. Add minced garlic and cook until tender. Do not brown. Add shrimp in several batches, stirring well into the onion mixture. Add 2 tablespoons filé powder and stir constantly for 12-15 minutes or until shrimp are well cooked and reddish pink. It is important to achieve color on the shrimp otherwise the shrimp flavor will be missing from the dish. Add half of celery, half the bell peppers and 2 additional tablespoons filé powder. Cook 3- 5 minutes then add 3 quarts water and half of the green onions and parsley. Bring water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining green onions, parsley, celery and bell pepper. Season to taste using salt, black pepper and granulated garlic. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Add 2 tablespoons filé powder, immediately turn off the heat and blend well. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve gumbo over cooked white rice with an additional sprinkle of filé as a garnish.

---Janie Verret Luster, Du Large, La.























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