Tomato Gumbo with Sea Bass

  • Active Time 25m
  • Total Time 1h 25m

Serves 4

This slightly refined version of the American southern specialty features sea bass, a species that is present in various forms worldwide. Gumbo is a mainstay of Creole cooking, distinguished by the use of a browned roux and filé powder, the ground leaves of the sassafras plant.


  • 1 whole sea bass, about 3 pounds, cleaned, filleted and skinned with skeleton and head reserved
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons diced spicy sausage
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups diced plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 lemon, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, plus 4 sprigs
  • 1/4 teaspoon filé powder


Cover and refrigerate the bass fillets. Wash the reserved skeleton and head in cold water, then cut the skeleton into pieces and set aside.

In a large heavy saucepan over high heat, warm 4 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Add the onion, flour and sausage and sauté until the flour turns a medium-to-dark brown and exudes a slightly nutty aroma, 6-8 minutes. Add the bell pepper, celery, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaf, tomatoes and water. Stir well. Add the reserved fish skeleton and head, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and skim away any scum that rises to the surface. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

During the final 10 minutes the gumbo is cooking, prepare the sea bass. Cut the fillets into 4 equal pieces and season lightly with salt. In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the fish pieces and sauté until lightly browned on the undersides, 4-5 minutes. Turn over the fish and cook until the fish is opaque throughout, 4-5 minutes longer, depending upon the thickness of the fillets.

Remove the gumbo from the heat. Remove and discard the skeleton and head. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan, pressing hard on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the lemon slices and parsley, then stir in the filet powder.

TO SERVE: Ladle the gumbo into warmed soup bowls, place a piece of fish in each and garnish with the parsley sprigs.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Weldon Owen. All rights reserved.

RecID 2191

nutrition information per serving

734 calories; 39g total fat; 181mg cholesterol; 1149mg sodium; 21g carbohydrates; 3g fiber; 73g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

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