1 large dressed frying chicken, including giblets & neck
1-1/2 cups of flour for dredging
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1-1/2 lb. okra, cut crosswise in ¼ inch rounds
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 medium bell peppers, chopped
1 large onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp. flour, unbleached
3 qts. hot (not boiling) water
3 large bay leaves
1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pint raw oysters and juice
1 Tbsp. filé
Dredge chicken with flour and pepper. In iron skillet fry until brown in enough good grade cooking oil to keep from sticking. Remove from skillet and set aside in large pot equipped with lid. Reserve chicken oil to be used as needed in rest of cooking.
Combine okra, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and garlic and fry in just enough chicken oil to prevent sticking. When almost done, put in pot with chicken.
Make a roux (a base for gravy) by combining 5 Tbsp. of reserved chicken oil with 3 Tbsp. flour in a large iron skillet. Stir constantly over medium heat until roux turns dark brown. Be careful not to burn it! Gradually stir water into roux a little at a time. Add pepper and bay leaves and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring when necessary to prevent sticking. Pour over chicken and vegetable mixture, bring to a boil and simmer about 30 minutes.
Add shrimp and oysters to simmering mixture in pot and continue to cook about 15 minutes. Add filé after gumbo has been removed from fire and has ceased to bubble. Do not boil after filé has been added as gumbo will have a tendency to be stringy. Many cooks put a bottle of filé on the table and let guests add their own. (In case you are not familiar with filé, it is made from dried sassafras leaves and is usually available in fish markets or wherever gourmet supplies are sold. A small bottle will last a long time.)
Serve gumbo over hot rice in large flat-type soup bowls. Prepare rice while gumbo is cooking and use either long-cooking unpolished rice or brown rice for good flavor. Be sure to have enough rice ready as folks are almost sure to ask for seconds.
This recipe will serve 6-8.