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).
I’m addicted to your recipes, and I’m an omnivore, so that says something.. I don’t know what, but something. I’m pimping the blog like crazy, (standing on my head, while I’m taking pictures of antelope, doing both,…etc),I keep picturing you with a cafe, making people in Marina Del Rey (or someplace quasi-exotic, yet smartly priced), (maybe eve palm springs..great film festival. 😉 ), (I write a lot of asides), drool over what they never suspect is vegetarian friendly yummy-ness. Girl, you can coooook!
Thanks SO MUCH for the kind feedback! And yes – I pride myself on feeding meat eaters things that make them not even realize there was no real meat. Though these poor shrimp might be screaming out from heaven “WHAT ABOUT US?” Not mention what the eggs might say. 🙂
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