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Creole Fish Head Gumbo

Creole Fish Head Gumbo

Fish heads provide an unbelievable amount of flavour, lip-smacking richness, and different textures to dishes.

They’re also very cheap compared to fillets, and by eating them, you’re helping to promote sustainable meat and fish consumption. 

I used a big snapper head (which I cut in half) for this dish, but you could use salmon heads, which are far more plentiful, or any large fish head from fish that you’ve caught personally, like pike, trout, carp, catfish, or ocean species. 

I know a fish head floating in your soup is nightmare fuel for some people, so feel free to pick off all of the useable meat from the heads and stir it back into the gumbo, discarding the bones. 

This isn’t supposed to be a super authentic gumbo recipe passed down from generation to generation… it’s just my take on a Creole-style seafood gumbo, so purists can keep quiet. 

When you buy the head(s) you can ask your fishmonger to scale and de-gill them and to cut it in half if necessary, or you can do it yourself, just be sure it gets done! 

  • Prep Time15 min
  • Cook Time1 hr
  • Total Time1 hr 15 min
  • Yield4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) butter
  • 1 cup (120g) all purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 12 oz (340g) okra, trimmed and cut into thick disks
  • 6 oz (175g) andouille kielbasa sausage, sliced and cut into half moons
  • 2 teaspoons (4g) Creole or Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1g) dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1g) black pepper
  • 4 cups fish, chicken, or vegetable stock
  • 14 oz (400ml) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2-1 fish head per person (cut heads in half if too large)
  • 1/2lb (225g) peeled and de-tailed shrimp (preferably gulf shrimp)
  • Kosher salt 
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Preparation

1

If you have one or two large fish heads, cut them in half with a sturdy knife. 

Fish head cut in half

Make sure they are free of scales and that you’ve removed the gills. You can ask your fish monger to do all of this. 

2

Add the oil and butter to a deep skillet over medium low heat. 

When the butter has melted, mix in the flour, stirring it into a paste. 

Keep cooking and stirring until the roux is a light chocolate brown colour, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat if it is browning quickly. Don’t walk away from this, just keep stirring!

For more instructions on roux, check out my other gumbo recipe.

I like to do a lighter roux for seafood than for a meat gumbo, but if you like a nice dark roux, by all means, keep cooking it! 

3

Add the vegetables and sausage, turn the heat up to medium, and cook, stirring very often, for 10 minutes. 

Add the spices and cook for 1 more minute. 

Add the stock and tomatoes and stir everything together well. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4

Add the fish heads, reduce heat to medium low, cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes. Try not to disturb them too much, or they’ll  fall apart. 

fish heads in gumbo

Add the shrimp and cook until just done (2-6 minutes depending on the size).

5

Taste and add salt or more Creole spice if needed.

From here you can either gently lift the fish heads out of the stew and put one or 1/2 of one into each bowl, then ladle the stew back over top of them, or, if your diners are squeamish, you can remove the heads, pick off all of the edible bits (cheeks, back of the head, lower jaw, collar), stir them back into the stew and serve it like that. 

6

Garnish with sliced green onion and serve on its own, or with rice. Enjoy!

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