After taking a week off -- and eating poorly -- I’m back in the kitchen with Home Chef’s Brown Butter Shrimp and Gouda Grits. That’s right. You heard me. GOUDA!
I’d been hesitant about ordering meals featuring seafood. I mean, I’m from the Georgia coast, so I know something about shrimp. Real shrimp doesn’t get delivered by Fed Ex, you go pick it up down at the dock from a guy who spent all day catching it.
Now, from the arrogance with which I wrote the above, you’d never guess I never ate shrimp until I moved inland, would you? In our Leave-it-to-Beaver-style home (even in the 70s), Mom mostly cooked what Dad would eat, and that did not include seafood. (Have I told you this story before? How we made Mom take her sardines outside on the porch to eat? Or the one about our trip to New Orleans?)
I didn’t discover shrimp until I was in college in Atlanta. It was our dorm mother’s birthday, and a group of us went to the Sun Dial, the revolving restaurant on top of Peachtree Plaza, to celebrate. I was starving. I mean, I was so hungry I was ready to start gnawing on the waiter.
Then the waiter in question sat a bucket of iced shrimp on our table. A big damned silver bucket. Everybody around me dug in, as I sat there and whined about starving to death.
“Shut up, Belinda,” someone laughed with a smear of cocktail sauce on her upper lip, “and eat some damned shrimp.”
That’s when I had to admit I had never eaten shrimp, and, worse humiliation, I had no idea how to eat peel-n-eat shrimp. I may have even questioned whether it was actually cooked or not. I mean, they were cold.
They patiently showed me how to pinch the little tail off, and peel the translucent exoskeleton from the little pink curl of a sea creature. I was still highly doubtful as I dipped the first shrimp ever-so-delicately into the cocktail sauce... and bit into it.
Well, the rest is history. Nearly two tons of shrimp and thirty years later, I now eat shrimp fried, broiled, grilled, boiled, sauteed, barbecued, alfred0ed and scampied. Bubba Gump got nothing on me. I can put away two pounds of peel-n-eat at one sitting without a belch.
But tonight, friends, ushers in a bright new horizon in the land of Belinda’s bottomless stomach! Tonight I cooked the best damned shrimp I’ve ever cooked (which is to say, the only shrimp I’ve ever cooked that didn’t involve a wok). But still, this stuff was FABULOUS, even if I did have to devein it. Let me tell you, nothing is as appetizing as spending fifteen minutes spent pulling shrimp shit out of your dinner. The instructions didn’t even mention deveining. Do some people just cook it with shrimp intestines fully loaded? Shudder.
The shrimp was seared on one side in a hot pan with olive oil, then put aside while the stunningly delicious brown butter sauce was made. Butter was cooked in the same pan until it started to turn a deep brown, then the white part of a scallion was thrown in. Grainy mustard, some lemon zest and juice from the now-naked lemon, and crushed red pepper flakes all joined the party, mingling with the cooking butter. Then the shrimp were joyfully reunited with the pan, and it all simmered together for about three minutes.
If my neighbor next door happened to have her ear pressed up against the wall we share, she might have thought I was having particularly satisfying sex. At the first mouthful, I may have actually moaned, “Oh, my God....” It was that good.
They nearly lost me with the grits, though. They sent me INSTANT grits. I mean, come on! But they turned out really well. The Gouda cheese brought a subtle smoky cheesiness far different from the shredded mild cheddar I usually put in grits. The shrimp and the brown butter sauce was poured over the grits, garnished with the green parts of the scallion and some smoked paprika... and then devoured.
The meal came with fifteen good sized shrimp, meant to feed two people. I ate them all. And I’m not sorry.
It had been a lovely evening, and DB (Da Boyfriend) and I were settling down to bed for the night.
I should have known something was about to happen. Doolittle was on the bed, his paw pouncing around, his eyes intently focused and his nose sniffing around. I looked, but found nothing. I decided it must be one of those hallucinatory episodes that cats fall prey to every now and then. Like, you know, when they sit and stare at a blank wall for ten minutes.
But I was sitting on the edge of the bed, finishing up an ice cream sandwich. I turned my head to say something to DB, and I saw something black on my right shoulder. My bare right shoulder, naked and vulnerable... with an SOSS (Spider of Significant Size) sitting there, bold as brass, just looking back at me with his beady little eyes.
I shrieked. I jumped off the bed, screaming, “Get it off! Get it off!” as I danced like no one was watching.
DB: “What? What’s wrong?”
Me: “Spider! Is it still on me? I can’t see my back--”
I twirled like a dervish, slapping myself all over, brushing imaginary arachnids off my thighs and head and anywhere I could reach.
DB: “Honey, I think it’s gone-”
Me: “You think? Thinking isn’t good enough! Do you see it? Where did it go?”
Me (still brushing): “What ‘wow’?”
DB: “I had no idea your voice could reach that octave.”
Me: “It’s not funny!”
DB: “Are you scared of spiders?”
The monumental stupidity of what he had just said momentarily distracted me from the fear that the spider was still on me somewhere. He’d said it before, the last time a spider fell on me while we cleaned out my patio closet.
Me: “Yes, I’m afraid of spiders! Everybody is afraid of spiders!”
I began frantically tearing the comforter and sheets off the bed.
DB: “Oh, come on. You are never going to find it.”
Me: “I’m not trying to find it. I’m trying to make sure where it isn’t! You can’t possibly expect me to get back in that bed and try to sleep without making sure it’s not still in bed?”
DB sighed, climbed out of the bed, and began dutifully shaking the twenty-seven pillows I sleep with.
Suddenly, I saw the little bastard, strolling nonchalantly across the carpet at my feet. I shrieked again.
Me: “There he is! There he is!”
Me (pointing frantically): “There! Right there! Get him!”
DB: “Well, hand me something to smash him with.”
Me (throwing a box of Kleenex at him): “Hurry up! Before he gets away!”
DB: “He’s not getting away. There’s no where for him to go.”
Me: “Spiders are crafty bastards! They’re like Houdini. They can always disappear into a crack or something!”
DB bent over and pinched the spider between the tissue as I just stood there shuddering. As he walked past me to the bathroom, he opened the tissue and displayed a tangle of little black legs.
DB: “Oh, look! It’s got a red hourglass on its belly--”
Me (blood draining from every part of my body): “Really?”
DB (grinning): “No, just kidding--”
Me (slapping him on the shoulder): “That’s not funny!”
DB: “Actually I think it’s a brown recluse.”
DB: “I thought you had a catch-and-release policy about spiders? Good for the environment and all that. What happened to not giving in to the ignorant bias against these poor, misunderstood, multi-legged creatures?”
Me (remaking the bed): “Hey, I have a very specific understanding with the spiders. They leave me alone, I leave them alone. And this one broke the pact. He launched an aggressive incursion onto my personal body-- Stop laughing at me!”
DB: “You know, they say a person swallows eight spiders a year while they sleep--”
Me: “That’s an urban myth.”
DB: “Are you sure? My brother woke up once and found a spider leg in his mouth--"
Me: “SHUT UP!”
POST SCRIPT: Later that night I went to the bathroom. Flipped on the light, and there was another spider, sitting on my sink. He died tragically.
I LOVE THE WEB
Because nobody can interrupt me; they can only de-friend me.