Remove the shrimp heads and peel and devein the shrimp. (If you're making your own stock, reserve the heads and shells to make the stock.) Refrigerate the shrimp and crabmeat until ready to use.
If using fresh tomatoes, fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Carefully drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and let them cool. The skins will slip off easily. Remove the cores and coarsely chop the tomatoes over a bowl to retain as much juice as possible. Set aside. (If using canned tomatoes, chop each tomato into eighths and return them to the juice in the can.)
To make the roux, heat the vegetable oil in a large (10-quart) stockpot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, gradually add the flour, whisking continuously, and cook, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary to keep it from burning, until the roux is a dark mahogany color, 25 to 35 minutes. (Be careful: If the roux burns, you will have to start all over again!)
Carefully add the onions to the roux and stir with a large wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes. (The onion will sizzle and steam when it hits the hot roux, so caution is advised. All seasoned gumbo cooks have roux battle scars on one or both arms.)
Add the celery and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes more. The mixture should resemble a pot of black beans in color and texture.
Add the heated stock and the tomatoes with their juices. Stir in the hot sauce, Creole seasoning, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, salt, basil, oregano, cayenne and bay leaves. Stir well. Bring the gumbo to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer. Add the crab bodies (if using) and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour.
Add the okra and bring the gumbo to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, uncovered, until the okra has lost its bright green color and cooked down like the other vegetables, about 30 minutes. If the gumbo gets too thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, continue to simmer it, uncovered.
Gumbo is always better the day after it has been cooked, although I've never had a complaint when I served it the day I made it. At this point, you can cool the gumbo. Turn off the heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Then place the pot, uncovered, in an empty sink. Fill the sink with cold water and ice around the stockpot (try not to get any in the stockpot itself). Stir the gumbo every 15 minutes to facilitate cooling. When completely cool, refrigerate the gumbo in the stockpot, uncovered.
When ready to serve, slowly bring the gumbo to a simmer over medium-low heat. Thirty minutes before serving, add the green onions, parsley and lemon juice. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and crabmeat, mix well, and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and turn off the heat. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes more to cook the seafood. The gumbo will stay hot for a long time. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and adjust the seasonings; serve over cooked white rice with French bread and butter.
This recipe was provided by a chef, restaurant or culinary professional. It has not been tested for home use.