Lies all lies

June 27, 2009

Sometimes packages lie. Sometimes they will tell you that your creamy and delicious grits are only 25 to 30 minutes away, but it is just lies. An hour later you will still be stirring and babysitting those grits. You will still be tasting them every 5 minutes to see if they have lost their “slightly crunchy should not fill your mouth as much” texture.

But eventually, the grits will soften and be able to provide the perfect bed for this spicy and rich shrimp sauce. Once you taste this dish, you will forget about the horrible lies the package told you, about the chained to the stove feeling you had, and about the “always in trouble still in time out” cat that stole a shrimp from your plate when you went to get your camera. Well, maybe you will not forget about the cat but the shrimp and grits will help soothe your frustrated soul.

Mike Lata’s Shrimp and GritsShrimp and Grits1

From a Yankee in a Southern Kitchen

The meal was fabulous. Great comfort food; the creamy and buttery flavor of the grits was a perfect compliment to the spicy sauce of the shrimp. Make sure to taste the sauce and the grits as you cook and season accordingly. It makes a difference in this meal.


2 cups milk (I needed 2 to 3 extra cups of milk during the cooking process)

1 cup fresh white grits

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons finely diced onion

3 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper

2 ounces diced country ham

½ cup shrimp stock or milk (I did ½ chicken broth and 1/8 milk)

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

6 dashes of hot sauce (I added two more or so)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Couple shakes of Old Bay Seasoning (I feel it is required with shrimp)

For the grits: Bring the milk just up to a tiny boil around the edge of a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add the grits and stir for 1 minute. Turn the heat to low. If there are any hulls, skim and remove them now using a slotted spoon. Add the butter, and stir frequently for the first 10 minutes, then stir every 10 minutes to grits are done, about 1 to 1 ½ hrs. Add more liquid if the grits are absorbing the milk. Cover between stirrings. When cream, add salt and pepper to taste.

For the shrimp: Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottom fry pan or enamel skillet. Add the onion and red pepper, cooking till translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ham and sauté briefly. Stir in the milk or stock, scraping the sides and bottom of the skillet to deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil, and cook till the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cream, bring to a boil, and reduce the liquid making a loose sauce. Add the shrimp, stir, and cook till the shrimp turn pink. Add the chives and season to taste with salt, pepper and old bay.

Divide the grits among four plates, top with the shrimp and some of the sauce. Serve immediately. If you are cooking for less than two, this dish reheats well the next day, just use separate dishes to reheat separately.Shrimp and Grits


I am normally a delightful person. Some adjectives I have heard that describe me are charismatic, loveable, kind, funny, or an example from which all other humans should live. However, I will admit that there are certain microscopes under which I am studied, that I do not come out looking so lovely. One of those lenses would be when I become a victim of the common cold, the flu, or any other illness with the potential to cripple me.

I am not a nice sick person nor am I a mean sick person that sleeps when she is sick. No, I am a bored, whiney, bow to my every whim, don’t want to take medicine, I can’t believe you made me cry sick person. I am always surprised that I still have a husband after the snot departs, the medicine fog dissipates, and the what did I do to deserve this feeling goes away. And even though I might physically being feeling better, my guilt over my behavior is another story.

For example during my last bout with the flu, Alex was preparing my shot of Nyquil in the hopes that the monster would drift off into slumber.  The monster had other ideas though. I roared and thrashed in the bed when attempting to turn over and knocked the bottle right out of his hands. I knocked the full Cherry Nyquil bottle from his apparently weak grip onto him, myself, and our brand new white down comforter. Then, I promptly blamed him, began to cry, and fell asleep.  I am quite the catch I tell you.

So today, I prayed to the laundry gods,  bleached the duvet cover and set out to make it up somehow. The easiest way to do this: food. I made Jambalaya for my doctor and it worked. Somehow I am forgiven, I think it helps that I am cute and Alex realizes that monster only comes out once… three… maybe five times a year.

Everything Jambalayajambayla-017a

A Rachel Ray recipe

Alex rates this recipe an 8 because he has had real jambalaya with rue and this is not that. I rate it a 9 because I love the spice and flavor in this dish. My only issue is all the prep work (chopping) it requires. Definitely not a 30 minute meal; well maybe if I had a fully staffed prep kitchen it would be.


  • 2 cups enriched white rice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless white or dark meat chicken (I used boneless white)
  • 3/4 pound andouille, casing removed and diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • Several drops hot sauce or 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (a handful) all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1(14-ounce) can or paper container chicken stock or broth
  • 1 teaspoon (1/3 palmful) cumin
  • 1 rounded teaspoon (1/2 palmful) dark chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon (1/3 palmful) poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, raw, deveined and peeled (ask for easy peel at fish counter) (I normally leave it out to make the dish cheaper; I have made it both ways and don’t miss the shrimp at all)
  • Coarse salt and black pepper
  • Chopped scallions, for garnish
  • Fresh thyme, chopped for garnish (Did not use)


Cook rice to package directions.

Place a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and butter to the pan. Cube chicken and place in hot oil and butter. Brown chicken 3 minutes, add sausage, and cook 2 minutes more. Add onion, celery, pepper, bay, and cayenne.

Saute vegetables 5 minutes, sprinkle flour over the pan and cook 1 or 2 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and broth and season with cumin, chili, poultry seasoning, and Worcestershire. Bring liquids to a boil and add shrimp.

Simmer shrimp 5 minutes until pink and firm. Remove the pot from the heat and place on a trivet. Ladle jambalaya into shallow bowls. Using an ice cream scoop, place a scoop of rice on to the center of the bowlfuls of jambalaya. Sprinkle dishes with salt, pepper, chopped scallions, and thyme leaves.jambayla-004a

My Super Power

November 8, 2008

As most young married couples do, Alex and I discuss the future and what each of us sees in it. In the beginning, we saw a different number of little people running around in our future. We have since comprised and resolved this issue, but the possibility of what could have been still haunts me to this day.

You see, Alex comes from an amazing, fun, and outgoing family of 5 children and he wanted to mirror the parent to child ratio in our family. I, on the other hand, come from an amazing, fun, and outgoing family of 2 children and was quite content with our little number. My opposition to the family of 5 was rooted in logic and mostly monetary but honestly, I was and still am scared.

If history repeated itself, I would end up with a large number of boys and in this imaginary family of 5, our children, while loving and kind possessed the not so stellar qualities of their parents.  Intelligent, sarcastic, opinionated, stubborn; you name it and these kids had it in spades. And the recurring vision I was having while envisioning this happy future was my husband coming home to find that the children have outwitted me. Tied to a chair, probably some prisoner of their imaginary game, completely helpless in enforcing any type of discipline; destruction and anarchy were running the house and I was forced to watch from the comfort of my dining room chair prison. The thought still sends shudders down my spine.

Do not worry this fate should hopefully not become mine. Alex and I have comprised to a magic number that will hopeful allow me to keep chaos from reigning. But, I also discovered that I have a super power, if my boys are anything like their father I can lull them into a state of calm with my food; just like putty in my hands. I think I will start saving recipes in the For Emergencies Only file and this pasta is definitely going in.

Tonight’s recipe comes from a blog I frequent almost every day: Good Things Catered

Baked Chicken Sausage Pasta with Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce
1 box pasta of choice
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 links of chicken sausage with spinach, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds (I use chicken sausage meatballs see below)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes, crushed with back of spoon (I add another 15oz can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 tsp salt
splash heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 c. fontina cheese, grated
1/2 c. garlic and her bread crumbs

-In large Dutch oven of lightly salted water, cook pasta according to directions to just al dente (still firm).
-Transfer pasta to large colander and set aside to drain.chicken-meatballs-031a1
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-In Dutch oven, now empty, add olive oil and bring up to almost smoking.
-Add chicken sausage, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
-Add garlic and crushed pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
-Add diced tomatoes and salt and stir to scrape up all browned bits
-Bring to boil and reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
-Add cream, stir to combine, add pasta and parsley, toss for one minute.
-Sprinkle on cheese and then bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Tip: Often I do not or cannot find Chicken Sausage. So I make my own

Chicken Sausage Meatballs

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts chopped up into chunks

1 package of frozen spinach defrosted and drained (make sure all the water is out)

½ cup Parmesan Cheese shredded
2 tbsp Panko breadcrumbs

1 clove garlic minced

To taste: Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flake, Basil, and Parsley

Pulse in the food processor until chicken is minced and all is combined. Sometimes I will also add a little half and half if it is not wet enough.  Then form into balls (I use a small ice cream scoop) and sauté in a pan with a extra virgin olive oil until brown and cooked through.chicken-meatballs-022chicken-meatballs-001