Seafood Gumbo and Grilled Oysters: A Louisiana Christmas Tradition – #SundaySupper

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Seafood Gumbo and Grilled Oysters

Seafood Gumbo and Grilled Oysters: The Louisiana Seafood & Christmas Connection

For us Christmas and seafood go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Louisiana crowns the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout south Louisiana, there is “water, water everywhere.” There’s a reason why Louisiana is called “The Sportsman’s Paradise.” The land and the water provide excellent hunting and fishing. And we get to enjoy the spoils on our tables.

Gumbo is a dish that remains ostensibly connected to the land (and water). Chickens, turkeys, pigs, quail, ducks, crabs, shrimp, and oysters all find their way into our gumbos. And it seems there’s a gumbo for just about every occasion: Chicken & Andouille Gumbo, Turkey & Andouille Gumbo… There’s even a vegetarian gumbo (for Lent!) called Gumbo Z-herbes. But, hands down, our favorite (and probably the one that most closely resembles the gumbos of 300 years ago) is Seafood Gumbo.

Seafood is plentiful in Louisiana. Traditionally, the R-months were considered oyster months: SeptembeR, OctobeR, NovembeR and DecembeR. Modern day refrigeration makes the R-month rule obsolete. However, the tradition remains and seafood, especially oysters, fit perfectly at the end of the December R-month.

[For more news and info about Louisiana seafood, follow the #LouisianaSeafood hashtag on Twitter!]

Our Annual Christmas Seafood Feasts

So seafood is on our minds here in December in south Louisiana. But Christmas and seafood are not only Louisiana traditions. There are lots of places around the world that feature seafood this time of the year. Take Italy for example….

The traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes is known the world over. The reasons for the feast might be a point of disagreement, but all agree that the tradition is 1) worthwhile in and of itself, and 2) the food is always excellent.

Historically, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is steeped in Catholic tradition. Seven fishes equals seven sacraments. The “feast” takes place during Advent, a season of longing and expectation… a season marked by abstinence from meat. The feast takes place on Christmas Eve before midnight Mass. Since no meat was served during Advent, the feast had to feature seafood, and it did so admirably… Fish seven different ways!

Each year, our family celebrates Christmas with three different feasts, all of which feature seafood. On Christmas Eve we join my brother-and-law and lots of cousins and friends for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. On Christmas Day, I always prepare a Seafood Gumbo at home. Then, usually a day or two after Christmas, my son’s godfather [a.k.a., Big D] comes over for a seafood extravaganza that always highlights oysters.

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Check out Mario Batali’s take on the Feast of the Seven Fishes below. [It’s short!]

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Here are a few of the dishes we have had over the last few Feasts of the Seven Fishes:


Mussels and Pasta


Oyster Shooters

I’m not the chef for these feasts. Happily this is one time that I enjoy just showing up and being blessed with the gifted culinary skills of my brother-in-law.

Authentic Seafood Gumbo for Christmas Day

Gumbo has been deemed Louisiana’s official cuisine. It is so much a part of our daily culture that an argument could be made that gumbo runs in our veins. ūüėČ

“Gumbo is the star of New Orleans gastronomy. Savory, dark, piquant, complex, and downright mysterious, this soup is the one New Orleans dish that first-time visitors think they have to have. More than a tourist ‘to-do,’ however, gumbo is a staple menu item found in many Louisiana homes, especially in the southern parishes. It is such an important thread in the state’s overall culinary fabric that the legislature adopted it as Louisiana’s official cuisine. But gumbo’s significance goes beyond its appeal at the dining table. Besides satisfying taste buds, this dish personifies the word ‘Creole’… Remarkably, gumbo has been simmering on local stoves for almost three hundred years. And even with a few modern deviations, each pot is tied to those early roots, and each bowlful is an edible mosaic of the history of the varied cultures that colonized New Orleans.” – Cynthia LeJeune Nobles in New Orleans Cuisine: Fourteen Signature Dishes and Their Histories.

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  • 4 to 5 lbs shrimp (with heads on), peeled, retain the heads & shells
  • 8 yellow onions, 4 chopped, 2 quartered
  • 4 ribs celery, 2 chopped, 2 quartered
  • ¬†5 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 8 to 9 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 lb of okra, sliced (1/2-inch slices)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of olive oil (not extra virgin), or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 2 lbs lump crabmeat (or claw meat)
  • 2 dozen raw oysters (with their liquor)
  • 1 bunch of parsley (flat-leaf), chopped
  • Rice
  • Crystal Hot Sauce, Tabasco, or Louisiana Hot Sauce, to taste



Peel and devein the shrimp, removing the heads. Refrigerate shrimp until ready to use. Place heads and shells in a stock pot. Quarter 4 onions lengthwise. Half a head of garlic. Cut 2 ribs of celery into 3 to 4 inch pieces. Chop 2 bell peppers. Add 2 gallons of water to the stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours. Strain through fine-meshed sieve. Discard shells and veggies. Return stock to pot and set aside.


  1. Chop the yellow onions and the celery. Seed, trim, and chop the bell pepper. Set aside. Peel and seed the tomatoes, chop and set aside. (Alternatively, you can use the equivalent in canned tomatoes). Trim and slice the okra into 1/2-inch slices. Set aside.
  2. Make your roux. Roux is made with equal parts flour and oil. In this recipe, we use a combination of butter and regular olive oil to make the roux. Heat a deep skillet (stainless steel or cast-iron) on medium-high heat (#7.5). Add olive oil to the skillet. Cut up the butter and add to the skillet. When the butter melts and the butter and oil begins to bubble, start adding the flour slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remember to stir constantly to prevent burning or scorching. The roux will quickly change colors. For the gumbo, you want a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate. This should take about 15 minutes.
  3. Once the roux has reached the right color, quickly add the onions, celery, and bell pepper, continuing to stir (with a wooden spoon) until all is mixed well. Sauté the veggies until they soften, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to sauté, stirring another minute or two.
  4. Bring reserved stock to a boil. Add the veggie-roux mixture to the stock using a large spoon. Stir in the spoonful of mixture until fully integrated before adding another spoonful. Add the tomatoes, okra, bay leaves and thyme. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour or so (even as much as two hours‚Ķ You‚Äôre looking for the roux and the stock to ‚Äúbecome one‚ÄĚ). Occasionally skim and discard any excess oil that pools on the surface.
  5. Add the reserved shrimp. Allow to simmer for another 2 minutes. Add the crab meat and the oysters. Simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the edges of the oysters start to curl. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add some of the green onions and the parsley (save some so that each guest can add to their bowl according to taste).
  6. Remove bay leaves and discard. Serve in bowls over rice. Sprinkle bowls with green onions and parsley. Have Crystal Hot Sauce or Tabasco on hand, and gumbo filé, in case anyone wants to thicken up their bowl with a dash or two.

Serve with hot French bread.

Celebrating with Big D: Ersters… a.k.a Oysters… Including¬†Grilled Oysters!

Me and Big D celebrating with Abita Restoration Ale!
Me and Big D celebrating with Abita Restoration Ale!


Raw Oysters!

A platter of grilled oysters!

Our Christmas seafood celebrations always culminate just a day or two after Christmas with a visit from my son’s godfather, “Big D” and a sack of oysters. I shuck those oysters while sipping on some fine Louisiana Abita beers with my friend Big D. Some of the oysters we eat raw. But, some of them we “grill” according to a knock-off recipe of Drago’s famous char-grilled oysters.

Ain’t nothin’ like Drago’s char-grilled oysters. Nothing. I wrote about them not that long ago. And this is our take on these delicious oysters.

They make a great appetizer. And if you don’t have a grill, no worries! You can also make this dish in the oven.

In the past we have used oyster shells on the grill, or muffin pans on the grill, and we have even used a stoneware muffin pan in the oven. These oysters are always a hit!

Below are the directions for preparing these oysters in an oven.


  • 4 sticks of butter
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced (or crushed & beaten in a mortar & pestle)
  • Raw oysters ‚Äď Lots of ‚Äėem. You can get them un-schucked in a sack, or shucked in a bucket filled with oyster liquor. How many? Well, that‚Äôs up to you. The more you get, though, the more of the other ingredients you need to have on hand.
  • Fresh ground black pepper ‚Äď to taste
  • Tabasco or Crystal Hot Sauce ‚Äď to taste
  • About 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese (we love lots on our oysters!)
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 12 oyster shell halves or a metal muffin pan


  1. In a small saucepan, melt a stick of butter at low heat. Add generous amounts of the following: fresh chopped garlic, Louisiana Hot Sauce, fresh lemon juice, and green onions (the green onions act as ‚Äúflavor catchers‚ÄĚ in this intensely poignant sauce!). Bring up the heat a bit to a simmer. Add a splash or two of whatever (good) beer you may have open. Beer pairs so well with Louisiana oysters!¬†This sauce says, ‚ÄúWOW!‚Ä̬†Adjust to your liking. Just remember that it should zing!
  2. Preheat oven to about 450.
  3. Add sauce to the bottom of muffin tin compartments. Add an oyster to each compartment. Top with grated hard cheese (Romano or Parmesan) and a touch of chopped parsley for looks. Cook at 450 until the cheese is bubbly.

Dive in as soon as the oysters come out of the oven. We arm ourselves with bamboo skewers. Attack and repeat.

It’s also good to have some good, light French bread on hand. You won’t want to leave a drop of the sauce behind. The French bread is good at sopping up every drop of deliciousness. Every. Single. Drop.

Bon appetit! Enjoy!

#SundaySupper Fun!

Today the #SundaySupper team is celebrating “Home for the Holidays.” There are dishes, traditions, and snacks that reflect what it means to be Home for the Holidays. Tradition means comfort, and tradition builds family. Many families keep traditions and rituals every year to truly feel Home for the Holidays.¬†So please join the 44 contributors of the #SundaySupper team today as we share our treasured Holiday dishes…


Appetizers & Snacks


Main Dishes



What does it mean for you to be Home for the Holidays?  Please join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper on December 23rd.  In the evening we will meet at 7pm EST for our #SundaySupper to talk about our Holiday Traditions.  We are so excited to have you join us.  All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

Please feel free to share with us and our followers your favorite Holiday recipe on our #SundaySupper Pinterest Board.  We are excited to have you!

Merry Christmas!

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  • beate weiss-krull

    Both dishes sounds simply amazing! I also very much enjoy reading about the Feast of the seven fishes. Thank you! ~ Bea @ galactopdx

    • Jeff Young

      My pleasure! Thanks, Bea!

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  • Isabel Foodie

    Merry Christmas to you and your family! It has been such a pleasure getting to know you this past year and I am so thankful you are part of #SundaySupper! Your support has meant so much to me and I can’t thank you enough for all your help.

    • Jeff Young

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, Isabel! Thank you for leading us in such a worthy revival of food and family Around the Family Table for #SundaySupper!

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  • Juanita’s Cocina

    Merry Christmas! This looks amazing! It’s all heaven!

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  • kimchi_mom

    Wow…can I come over? And thank you for the bit on Advent and the Feast of the Seven Fishes…I know very little about both! Thanks for sharing and happy holidays to you and your family!

    • Jeff Young

      My pleasure! Thank YOU! And, certainly… come by anytime! Just about everybody has heard of the French Quarter in New Orleans, but what most people don’t realize is that at one point the French Quarter was inhabited mostly by Italians… Sicilians, to be precise. There is so much Italian culture in history in the melting pot (or gumbo pot!) known as New Orleans!

  • Tora Estep

    As always, your Louisiana food and stories are absolutely delightful and inspiring. I’d love to try the gumbo sometime!

    • Jeff Young

      Thanks, Tora! Merry Christmas!

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  • Lizzy Do

    Oh, my gosh…what a seafood extravaganza! Perfect for Christmas!!! I grew up eating oyster stew on Christmas Eve, but the hubby wouldn’t go for that. I need to start taking baby steps towards the 7 Fishes tradition :)

    • Jeff Young

      It really is so much fun! A real feast! Of course, not everyone is as enamored with seafood as we are. Baby steps is a good way to start!

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  • Sarah R

    I’m the only one that likes gumbo here (mom hates okra) but that means more for me, right?

  • Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    That is a lot of seafood, amazing! Your dish looks vibrant, I really wish I liked seafood, lol! Happy Holidays!

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  • Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious

    Amazing! I’ve never had gumbo before but I’m sure I would love it!

  • The Wimpy Vegetarian

    Wow!!! I’m coming to YOUR house for the holidays! I honestly think Louisiana has some of the best food in the whole country. I loved reading your post about the Feast of Seven Fishes and loved all your photos. I still haven’t decided what to make for Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow night, and we have friends coming over, so I need to get on it. And I think the gumbo would be PERFECT. Or the mussels.

  • The ROXX Box

    Grew up in the South and feasted on a lot of seafood gumbo. I typically make this dish for New Years. Can’t wait!!

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  • Laura Hunter

    My husband loves gumbo so much. I have promised him that one day we will take a vacation to New Orleans so he can have it fresh. We might not be Catholic but we could totally get into the 7 Fishes tradition

  • Renee Dobbs

    You are so lucky to be near all that fresh seafood. What I find here in Atlanta has been frozen and thawed and loses so much flavor.
    I do enjoy gumbo a lot, well, more than a lot. Your recipe sounds wonderful. I hope to make some soon as I enjoy it even more on a cold winter day.

  • Megan Wood

    All I can say is WOW!! Now I want Oysters! I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas!

  • Cupcakes&KaleChips

    Though I am probably more of a turkey or chicken gumbo kind of girl, this does look incredible!

  • Nancy

    Jeff, I thoroughly enjoyed this post – I learned so much! Chinese people would be in HEAVEN in Louisiana – to say that we love seafood is an understatement. All of our fancy banquets feature seafood (probably at least 90% of the dishes feature or include it). Needless to say, I was drooling over each of your amazing photos. I hope your holidays have been merry, delicious and filled with time spent with loved ones.

  • Char Young

    Baby, has no one caught the typ-o? 4 sticks of butter and only 12 oysters? ūüėČ We’ll have to figure that one out and fix it!

  • sarah

    I love grilled oysters! I can eat like a dozen of them by myself! Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

  • Hezzi-Ds Books&Cooks

    Wow! two amazing seafood recipes! I love the sound of the flavors in the gumbo, YUM!

  • Donna Currie

    Gumbo was one of those things that I didn’t try until I was an adult, but I absolutely love it!

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