for mardis gras: seafood gumbo and king cake

happy mardi gras!  for those of you who know me well, you already know i only need a smidgen of an excuse to throw a party or to make a good meal.  i love get-togethers and good food, what can i say??!  we aren't doing a mardi gras party this year, like we have in past years, but i won't let a reason for celebrating go by without at least a special dinner. i have been yearning to create the perfect gumbo.  this is a difficult dish since its so time sensitive...the roux is everything to a good gumbo and it takes time to develop the complex flavors.  another personal stipulation to my gumbo creation is to make a SEAFOOD gumbo.  this doesn't mean a little bit of shrimp with chicken and sausage.  no.  i want a gumbo that is so full of seafood that you can almost hear the ocean waves and one that, preferably, does not even have an ounce of chicken in it.  this will be a difficult undertaking, but i am excited for the challenge.   i hope you are prepared to give me advice and feedback on several seafood gumbo posts over the next year...  i plan to really get serious about this goal once jack can eat it too- he has to wait until he turns two to enjoy shellfish...poor little guy!  he's so curious what all the fuss is about!

here is my first try at creating browngoat's perfect seafood gumbo

combine 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 crushed bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon salt; set aside.

in a heavy large pot, heat 3/4 cup vegetable oil over medium heat.  add 2 cups EACH of finely chopped celery, onion, and green peppers (the holy trinity) and turn heat to high.  stirring frequently, add 2 cloves minced garlic, 3 tablespoons file powder, 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, and the dried pepper-herb mixture you made.  cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

add 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, and stir as it reduces over high heat.  add 7 cups fish stock and bring to a boil.  reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

when ready to serve, add 2 cups shucked oysters, 1 cup crabmeat, and 1 pound small peeled and deveined shrimp.  cover, and wait 5 minutes. turn off heat, and let stand for 10 minutes.  serve over rice and with crusty french bread, but save room for a sickly sweet piece of king cake (and don't break your tooth on the plastic baby)!  a very special thanks to my mom and dad for sending us a cream cheese and fruit filled king cake from paul's pasty shop in mississippi...yummy!

it came with a sugar and icing decorating kit, so we got to decorate it fun!