All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012
Click that play button & enjoy yourself a little Big Maybelle. I have been all week.
And a BRUTAL week it has been. Kicked off Monday morning with a root canal. Swung into Wednesday having a broken crown drilled into, refitted for a permanent crown & I left with a numb face and a temporary crown. I ate the inside of my face (cheek still numb from Novacaine) that night – ATE it – into a bloody mess – during dinner as I watched Obama let Romney lie his way to a debate victory. Friday night, my temporary crown came out in two pieces as I ate an arugula & shaved Parmesan salad. Not a corn nuts, gravel & salt water taffy salad. Arugula. Paper thin cheese. Crown in my hand in two pieces on a tooth that has NOT had a root canal. Friday night at 5:30pm. Called my dentist, called his emergency line, emailed him. Crickets. Paged my root canal doctor & asked for a referral. In an infuriating act of dentist solidarity – the only dentist’s name he would say was the dentist whose work I was holding in my hand. I stood in the kitchen & cried. Nobody wanted to help me & I had a tooth on my lower right that had been drilled into two outer walls & little else. LOOK!
Look at that shit! And that white you see is a bit of dental cement – or some other dental substance – and it was the only thing between my nerve & the world. NOT A GOOD THING! No way to eat because 1) pressure on the tooth was painful & 2) I didn’t want to risk fracturing those two panels of vulnerable tooth I had in there. Friday night. Was I really supposed to wait until Monday? Or was I supposed to pick a dentist off a city bus advertisement? Dentists don’t generally work on Saturdays – and I have had SUCH a prolonged & brutally unlucky dental run this year – I am completely traumatized and unwilling just to roll the dice on some random doctor out of the Yellow Pages. That is if I even had a Yellow Pages.
Saturday morning I woke up & decided I needed a plan B – in case I really did have to live with my tooth dismembered until Monday. I decided to make a large pot of grits because they do not really require chewing to be consumed. Then my friends Dave & Rose announced that their dentist was working that day & agreed to see me. His name is Dr. Vincent Katow & I think it is safe to say he will now be my regular dentist. He was kind & gentle & got a new temporary crown in there in no time. Six days. Three major dental procedures. Three different dentists. And I am a patient who shakes all over & tends to cry (silently) in the chair. Just brutal. My righteous indignation & self pity ratcheted up exponentially.
Then the UGLIEST image ever screen-grabbed of me ever in history appeared on the internet (like this one – but EPICALLY worse) – from my recent appearance on Castle:
& set me off on a day filled with intermittent crying & a solid day of unprecedented self-pity. This photo above isn’t THAT bad – but – OK – fuck it. LOOK!
Here are two shots from the same show – below. Not the best look a show ever did to me but JESUS. That Honey BooBoo pick of me above – out there on the internet – FOREVER – makes me very sad.
Here are some comparisons my ball-busting friends made of my look in that bad pic. Funny? Sure. True? Unfortunately. 😦
The fact is – the prototype for the role was one of these two – LITERALLY. It was in the character description:
which is why my hair looks like I had recently been electrocuted and, well – I can’t explain that make-up – or why I had to wear dresses two sizes too small but – ouch. Just ouch.
It was a bad week. All I can say is – thank GOD for Bevmo’s 5 cent sales & credit cards. And for the TORRENT of support I got on Facebook – some public – some private. Bruised ego aside & waiting to be turned into a funny story – I move on.
So – anyway – now I found myself with teeth that could eat real food again – and a gigantic quantity of cheesy baked grits.
What to do with all those grits?? Then I thought of Arancini – or fried risotto balls! Why couldn’t I make them with grits? And – rather than a marinara for dipping – why not serve them on a bed of Creole shrimp? Unable to think of a reason NOT to do this – I did this! I admit – there are a lot of steps to get this done so it might be a special occasion sort of meal but it was SO FREAKING GOOD – I hope you get inspired to try it some time. Also – the Grits balls can be served naked or with a much easier sauce – like an aioli or jarred spicy Italian pasta sauce – like these risotto balls were served to me & my boyfriend in Louisville.
If you didn’t read the story about the carnival ride horror show experience we had in Louisville – you can HERE. Anyway – the grits balls are pretty fantastic on their own so don’t put them off if the whole Creole shrimp thing seems overwhelming or unappetizing. Also – the Creole shrimp recipe alone would go great over steamed rice – so – no need to get into the whole grits thing if that part seems overwhelming. Whatever you decide to try – read each of the recipes through completely before beginning. And if you are going for the whole shebang – peel your shrimp & start the stock before you get into any of the other parts of this amazing dish.
Also – the Creole Shrimp calls for canned tomatoes but if you can find tomatoes for sale in glass or in cartons like this:
buy those. READ HERE about why to avoid canned tomatoes. In the interest of simplicity – I will refer to packaged tomatoes as CANNED ones – even though I mean glass or cartoned ones.
I got the grits recipe HERE but I will spell it out here, too.
Oklahoma Cheese Grits
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups grits (fast cooking)
3/4 cup butter
1 pound grated cheese (I used a nice cheddar)
2 tsp Creole seasoning
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS hot pepper sauce (I used more than they called for)
2 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. I used a vintage casserole dish.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in grits, and reduce heat to low. Cover, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in the butter, cheese, seasoning salt, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, and salt. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and fold in the eggs. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until the top is lightly browned. Remove from oven & eat – or cool if you are gonna make the grits balls.
Southern-Style Arancini or Fried Oklahoma Grits Balls
Oklahoma Cheese Grits – see above
1/2 pound pepper jack (or other spicy cheese) cubed
2 cups bread crumbs. I used a combo or regular & panko
2 cups flour
4 eggs beaten
6 cups vegetable oil for frying
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the flour in a bowl, the beaten eggs in another & the bread crumbs in yet another. Add about 1 TBS Creole seasoning to each & blend. Scoop out a handful of cooled grits & create a ball. Mine were about the size of a pool ball. Press a piece of cubed cheese into the center & seal the ball back up. Dredge this through the flour then the eggs then the bread crumbs. Set aside on a baking sheet as you do this for the rest of the grits. I ended up with about 20 grits balls. I froze 16 of them – two each to a freezer baggy – for the future.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. When hot, add your grits balls & fry until golden – turning them so they color evenly. It takes about 3-4 minutes to get them nice & brown. Remove from the oil & drain on paper towels & set aside as you make your Creole shrimp. If you want to eat them plain or with another dipping sauce (arrabiata anyone?) – bake them in the oven for 20-30 minutes or so – to be sure they are hot & the center cheese cube is melted. If you are going through with the whole Creole Shrimp thing – put off the baking until you are 20-30 minutes from being ready to serve the Creole Shrimp.
Homemade Shrimp Stock
The shells & tails from 2 pounds of shrimp
1 medium onion – coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks cut into thirds
4 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 TBS black peppercorns
1 lemon – sliced
Put 10-12 cups water in a large stock pot. Add the other ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover & simmer for about an hour. Strain the stock through a colander of cheesecloth or a mesh strainer. Measure out 2 cups & set aside. Put the rest in freezer-safe containers & freeze them up for another day. I used recycled dairy containers.
2 lbs raw SHELL ON shrimp – use the LARGEST shrimp you can find. Use the shells for the shrimp stock.
1 onion – finely diced
4 celery stalks – thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper – finely diced
2 TBS butter
1 TBS vegetable oil
2 TBS Creole seasoning
2 cups homemade shrimp stock – or vegetable stock (use bouillon cubes for a short cut)
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 large tomatoes – diced
2 TBS tomato pasta
Approx. 26 oz (or more) chopped tomatoes (canned or, preferably, from a carton. READ HERE about why to avoid canned tomatoes)
6 garlic cloves – sliced
4 bay leaves
6-10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
Salt to taste
Hot sauce (Tabasco or Crystal or your brand) – to taste
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
Fresh parsley – chopped
Scallions (optional) – sliced
Peel & devein the shrimp – reserving the shells to make shrimp stock.
Heat the butter & vegetable oil in a large pan. Add half the diced onion & saute until light golden. Add the rest of the onion and the bell pepper & the celery. Saute over medium heat. Add 1 tsp of the Creole seasoning & saute until the vegetables are tender.
Add tomato paste, the canned tomatoes, 4 of the diced fresh tomatoes (reserving one diced tomato for garnish later) and 1/2 tsp salt – and stir in well. Saute until the tomatoes begin to incorporate. Turn the heat to high & add the white wine. Cook for a minute or two & then add the shrimp stock (NOT THE SHRIMP), garlic, bay leaves, cayenne, black & white peppers, fresh thyme, hot sauce & Worcestershire sauce & stir in well to blend the flavors. Let simmer on low for 30-45 minutes.
If your Creole sauce is too thick – add water or more canned diced tomatoes. If it is too thin – increase the heat & add 1 TBS of cornstarch mixed with 2 TBS water to your Creole sauce. This should thicken it nicely.
Taste it & add some of the remaining Creole seasoning and or salt. Add more hot sauce if you like a lot of heat.
When you are about 30 minutes from serving – pop those fried grits balls in the oven. 5 minutes before serving – get the Creole sauce boiling. Then – lower the heat back to a simmer & add your shrimp. These cook pretty quickly & you want to be careful not to overcook them. They will keep cooking even as you are assembling the dishes – so err of the side of just under-cooking them.
When the shrimp are ready – spoon out some Creole shrimp onto each plate, add a fried grits ball or two from the oven & then top with chopped tomato, fresh parsley & sliced scallions (if you are using them).