Egg and Dried Shrimp Gumbo

1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
Two (1-1/2 oz) pkg dried shrimp (3/4 cup)
7 cups seafood stock (preferred) or water
1 tsp minced garlic
9 whole hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1-1/2 cups hot cooked rice

Combine the onion, bell pepper and celery in a medium size bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet (preferably not a non-stick type) heat the oil over high heat until it begins to smoke, about 4 minutes. Gradually add the flour, whisking constantly with a long-handled metal whisk until smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the roux is dark red-brown to black, about 3 to 4 minutes (being careful not to let it scorch or splash on your skin). Immediately stir in the vegetable mixture and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the seasonings and Tabasco; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Stir in the shrimp, then cook about 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place the stock or water and garlic in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in the shrimp mixture until roux is dissolved. Return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer till shrimp are cooked and flavors married, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 6 of the whole eggs to the gumbo; cut the remaining 3 eggs in half and add. Turn heat to high and return mixture to a boil; then remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes. Skim oil from top and serve immediately.

To serve, place 1/4 cup rice in each serving bowl; add 1 whole egg and 1 egg half to each. Spoon about 1 cup gumbo over the top.

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Cajun Country -- New Iberia, Louisiana