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Chicken and Seafood Gumbo

New Orleans cooking enjoys the influence of many different cultural groups, including African and native Choctaw populations. Gumbo is traditionally thickened with okra, and the name comes from the African word for okra: "gombo." This recipe adds file powder (made from sassafras leaves), just as the Choctaw seasoned their stew; you can find file powder at many groceries or ethnic food stores. Serves 6.

1/2 c cooking oil
1/2 c flour
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt chicken broth (canned or from bouillon)
2 c water
2 c fresh or canned tomatoes
2 c sliced okra (fresh or frozen)
2 c diced cooked chicken breast
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c peeled, cooked shrimp (bite-sized pieces)
6 crab claws
2 tbsp file powder
6 cups cooked white rice

In a cast-iron Dutch oven, combine oil and flour over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low as flour begins to brown. Brown until the color of a penny, or darker.

Add chopped onions, celery, and garlic and cook until onions become transparent. Add broth while stirring. Add water, tomatoes, okra, chicken, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer.

Cook 2-3 hours or until tomatoes and okra come to pieces. Add shrimp, crab claws, and file powder 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve over white rice.

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