Southern-Style Arancini or Fried Oklahoma Grits Balls with Creole Shrimp

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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I got the grits recipe HERE but I will spell it out here, too.

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Oklahoma Cheese Grits

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.  I used a vintage casserole dish.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Southern-Style Arancini or Fried Oklahoma Grits Balls

INGREDIENTS

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

Creole seasoning

6 cups vegetable oil for frying

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DIRECTIONS

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.

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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.

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Homemade Shrimp Stock

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

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.

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Creole Shrimp

INGREDIENTS

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

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DIRECTIONS

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.

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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).

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