I chose seafood gumbo as this week’s 50 by 50 recipe two reasons. First, Fat Tuesday is next week. This is a perfect dish to serve in honor of Mardi Gras. Second, it’s a known fact that when you practically freeze to death, you should eat something hot and spicy to warm yourself from the inside out.

I chose seafood gumbo as this week’s 50 by 50 recipe for two reasons. First, Fat Tuesday is next week. This is a perfect dish to serve in honor of Mardi Gras.

Second, it’s a known fact that when you practically freeze to death, you should eat something hot and spicy to warm yourself from the inside out. Just the food I needed after taking a dip in 32-degree lake water Saturday at the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump.

OK, I did not really almost freeze to death. But it felt like it, if only briefly. I was one of more than 300 other lunatics — including my 9-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son — who took turns jumping into a hole carved out of the lake in this annual event to raise money for charity. This year’s recipient was our regional food bank.

Being a first-time jumper, I had no idea what to expect. In a bathing suit and socks, with my daughter by my side, I thrust my arms skyward and took a running leap. As I hit the water and plunged below the surface, I thought, “This isn’t so bad.”

That’s because my nerve endings hadn’t communicated to my brain. A split second later, the shock to my skin was so intense, I liken it to being pierced with 10,000 needles, then doused with jet fuel, lit on fire, then extinguished by a fire hosing of Arctic water.

Thankfully, the sensation lasted but a millisecond. And once I climbed the ladder out of the hole, the air actually felt balmy compared to the freezing water. The only lingering discomfort was in my tippy toes, probably where frostbite had planned to take up residence had I not immediately slipped into a pair of furry boots.

It was fun. Not that I’d ever do it again, but I’m happy to check it off my 50 by 50 list, and also do a little good for the food bank.

One word about gumbo: There are as many recipes as there are strings of Mardi Gras beads. Some recipes call for roux, others don’t. Some insist on adding okra, others omit it. Some cooks prefer it with tomatoes, others don’t. I loosely based this on a recipe from Emeril.com, but feel free to tweak it to your taste.

Fantastic Seafood Gumbo

3/4 cup vegetable oil 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup finely chopped onions 3/4 cup finely chopped green bell peppers 3/4 cup finely chopped celery 2 tablespoons minced garlic One bottle dark beer 6 cups stock or broth, either chicken or seafood or a mix of both 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped 2 bay leaves 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1 can (14.5-ounce can) diced or chopped tomatoes, not drained 1 cup fresh okra, sliced thin, or frozen okra 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, cooked or raw  (or more if desired) 1 pound other seafood if desired, such as bay scallops and calamari rings, cooked or raw 1/2 stick of butter 2 teaspoons Old Bay spice 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 1/2 cup chopped tender green onion tops Hot sauce White rice, for serving

Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to frequently stir the roux for 25 to 35 minutes, or until it turns dark. Do not let it scorch.

Add the onions, bell peppers and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and stock to the pot. Add thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire, cayenne, salt, pepper, tomatoes and okra. Bring the gumbo to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and seafood. Sprinkle with Old Bay. Stir until cooked, or if cooked, stir until heated. Add to the gumbo and mix well.

Serve over rice. Garnish with parsley and onion tops and pass the hot sauce.