Shrimp and Okra Stew

September  9, 2014

Sunday Dinners comes to us from our own chef/photojournalist/farmer/father figure Tom Hirschfeld, featuring his stunning photography and Indiana farmhouse family meals.

Today: Develop a loving, long-term relationship with okra -- starting with this easy, almost-one-pot recipe.

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Some lucky people grew up eating okra; there are even families with rich okra histories that they pass on from generation to generation. I am not one of those lucky people.

More: Here's everything you need to know about okra. 

I came late to okra -- or at least my love for it did. Since I didn't come from a family of okra-eaters, I always remained skeptical of the vegetable. My relationship with it was like that of boys and girls at an elementary school dance: standing at opposite corners of the room. It's not that I didn't like okra -- it was that I had no idea what to do with it. I preferred to stay in my comfort zone and stick to eating green beans.

On a whim one summer, I planted a row of okra in my garden. And even though I thought I was too far north for this southern beauty to thrive, it did.

I thought that my feelings for okra would be nothing more than a summer crush, but I soon realized that the relationship had developed into a full-blown affair. The proof was in the number of times that succotash made its way to my dinner table -- and for that matter, okra stewed with tomatoes, breaded okra, grilled okra, gumbo with okra, and okra with black-eyed peas. You get the point. That summer, I learned to look past okra's faults -- namely, its sliminess -- and discover its inner beauty.

Okra is not a vegetable to be cooked al dente; it yearns for long, slow simmering, which makes it the perfect vegetable for stews. And, like onions, okra is wonderful caramelized and tossed in any vegetable medley.

More: Learn how to make better soups, stews, and chilis before the temperature drops.

If you have never cooked with okra -- or even eaten it -- this recipe for Shrimp and Okra Stew is the perfect place to start. This casual, almost-one-pot stew comes together quickly, and the addition of smoked bacon makes it hard not to like. Hopefully, your first date with okra will develop into a loving, long-term relationship (just like mine).

Shrimp and Okra Stew

1 pound shrimp, raw, peeled, and deveined
2 cups okra, tops removed and sliced about 1/8-inch thick
2 ounces bacon, diced (I prefer double-smoked bacon)
Salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon garlic, sliced thin
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme, minced
2 teaspoons flat leaf parsley, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice (I use Lundberg Farms)
2 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Tom Hirschfeld


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Father, husband, writer, photojournalist and not always in that order.


arcane54 December 12, 2014
we miss you thirschfeld!
Renee G. September 14, 2014
Do you think frozen okra would be ok to use in this recipe?

Greg L. September 14, 2014
I did not enjoy as I thought I would. I will make a Cajun Gumbo next time.
Jeanne September 10, 2014
What are the big hunks of red stuff? They look like tomatoes but there are no tomatoes listed under ingredients.
Elizabeth S. September 9, 2014
For those of us who don't eat red meat, how will skipping bacon affect the flavor? Is the recipe still worth attempting? It looks delicious.
Sara S. September 9, 2014
This looks great. I also love okra roasted in olive oil.