Louisiana Gumbo

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Louisiana

First, a warning. This blog post will be long. Between talking about Louisiana and the actual making of this meal, I’ve got a lot to say. But I assure you that it’ll be worth it.

Louisiana History

While every state has some rich history, there are not too many with such deep rooted FOOD histories as Louisiana’s. The main cuisines of Louisiana are Creole and Cajun…a combination of French, Spanish, West African, Native American, German, Haitian, and Italian influences, in addition to Southern US influences. Louisiana was founded by the French, hence the slow and complex cooking found in Louisiana cuisine. I’ve discovered that the main difference between Creole and Cajun cooking is that Creole uses a tomato base, while Cajun does not, and that Creole is considered a little more “high brow-city food” while Cajun is more “country food”. Here’s a handy Pin that outlines the differences.

Full disclosure: Hubby went through an “I Love Emeril” phase quite a few years back. At that point in time, despite the fact that visiting New Orleans has been a bucket list item for me for quite some time (I had a teacher in 5th grade describe the above ground graves and I was instantly morbidly fascinated), I did not share his enthusiasm for New Orleans cooking.  I wasn’t big on trying new things. I wasn’t big on spices. That was the old me. New me wants to shake old me and tell her not to be such a weenie and try new foods!

Don’t Be a Weenie

The purpose of this State Food Tour is to experience the cuisine of other states and try new things. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a meal that we want to try and that we haven’t really had before. Not with Louisiana. There was soooooo much to choose from when we had to pick what we were making for this state. Did we want Jumbalaya? Crawfish? Gumbo? Etouffee? Shrimp Po’Boys? There aren’t too many other states with such an overwhelming selection of choices.

Even though I really wanted a Shrimp Po’boy (soooo good) we decided to go with a Cajun Gumbo…one that was loosely based on a recipe by the Great Emeril himself (we made some changes based on preferences and availability of supplies).

Gumbo is a bit complicated…

After pinning a few recipes and reviewing them, I realized that the gumbo was going to be a little more complicated than I’m comfortable with. Over the course of this project I’ve come to learn a thing or two about cooking, and I would even dare to say that I’m actually improving. That’s not to say that cooking doesn’t scare me. Complex and time consuming recipes paralyze me with anxiety. I’m always afraid I’ll ruin the meal or have to perform too many steps at a time and I’ll get overwhelmed by that.

I didn’t have to twist Hubby’s arm to get him to do most of the work with this recipe. This is him enthusiastically watching a You Tube video about making a roux:

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While the idea of stirring a pot of flour and oil for an hour overwhelmed me, it excited him. Weirdo.

Do the Roux

Anyway…on to the roux. Apparently another difference between Cajun and Creole is the way the roux is made—Creole uses butter, Cajun, uses vegetable oil. You need to heat it over low heat and stir in the flour it until it turns a chocolate brown color. It LITERALLY needs to be stirred CONTINUOUSLY for an hour. Like you can’t do anything else at all. Because you’ll burn the roux and then you’ll have to start over. Seriously…you can’t even scratch your nose.

Hubby set up the roux and we took turns stirring it—I had to stir while he chopped up the onions, pepper, and celery for the gumbo. If there’s anything I dislike more than stirring a roux, it’s chopping up onions. (Really, how do people do it without crying?) He stirred while I used the garlic press to squeeze and entire bulb of garlic in order to get the 3 TABLESPOONS of garlic. And then I wondered why my hands were sore the next day.

Here is our roux in stages:

See the chocolate color in the last picture? Hubby was practically swooning when he saw that. These were taken at 10 min intervals—it turns out that we only had to stir for about 40 minutes because we had 1 cup of flour and oil instead of 2. If you ever want to make this recipe, I would highly suggest watching one of those roux making You Tube videos to help you out.

The roux was the most difficult part of the whole recipe. I’m glad Hubs did most of that because I probably would have had a nervous breakdown worrying about messing it up. Now that I know how to do it, I would feel comfortable doing it on my own. The only problem would be if I had to go to the bathroom. I guess I can’t drink any water before making a roux by myself.

The Easy Part

Once the roux was the right color, the veggies, garlic, sausage, and cayenne pepper were added and cooked while stirring for about 5 minutes until the veggies were soft. The chicken stock was added directly to this pot, along with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Then the pot was reduced to a simmer for about 2 hours. (During that time you have to check the pot to skim the excess oil off the top every once in awhile.)

After that, we added shrimp*, green onions (yuck), and parsley to the pot and allowed it to simmer until the shrimp was cooked, about 20 minutes. We served it over rice with a sprinkle of file powder**.

*Shrimp was a deviation from the original recipe—Cajun cooking more commonly includes Crawfish, while Creole tends to use shrimp. Crawfish is a little harder to come by around these parts.

**This was fun to find. Two different grocery stores on a Sunday afternoon in search of a tiny little bottle of powder. When I told Hubby that the powder was an optional garnish, he didn’t seem to care and still insisted on having it. Ugh.

Don’t forget the wine

I did a little research on what wine pairs well with gumbo. My choices were a Riesling or a Chenin Blanc. I had never heard of Chenin Blanc (it’s French…fitting) and in the spirit of trying something new (on my expedition to retrieve file powder), I picked that up to have with the gumbo:

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It was a nice crisp taste, not too dry and not too fruity, either. It paired well with the meal.

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Bon Appetite!

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Lousiana

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 TBSP of minced garlic
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb of andouille sausage (cut into small pieces)
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 boxes of chicken stock (8 cups)

Instructions

  1. Make roux with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Stir continuously until roux is a chocolate brown color. (This will take between 35-45 minutes.)
  2. Once the roux is the right color, add the veggies, garlic, sausage, and cayenne pepper, stirring for about 5 minutes until the veggies are soft.
  3. Add the chicken stock directly to this pot, along with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Reduce to a simmer for about 2 hours. (During that time you have to check the pot to skim the excess oil off the top every once in awhile.)
  4. After that, add shrimp, green onions, and parsley to the pot and allow it to simmer until the shrimp is cooked, about 20 minutes.
  5. Serve it over rice with a sprinkle of file powder.
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New York Crumb Cake

The Bad Mommy Cooks—New York

When you live as close to New York City as we do (we can literally see the skyline from our town), it’s hard to imagine New York cuisine that we haven’t consumed. I mean, New York City is just as eclectic as Jersey is with food. If you can’t get a type of food in NYC, it doesn’t exist. There are deli sandwiches, real bagels (not that frozen crap), authentic Italian food (yeah, there’s a difference), and real pizza (there’s DEFINITELY a difference). The City’s influences have spilled over into our neck of the woods—many of our restaurants here are just as good (and some even better) than New York.

I Can’t Mess This Up—My Rep Is At Stake

So what could I cook? We needed a food that would not be tainted by my lack of cooking. Something that I could do justice. I knew I couldn’t make pizza (I’ve already tried that already…see The Great Cooking Experiment ). I’d never be able convince the family to eat the same deli sandwich. I didn’t feel like working around who won’t eat pastrami or turkey (and contrary to popular belief, I’m not running a diner). Attempting something gourmet was out of the question as well. Hubby suggested combining the two most popular foods, pizza AND bagels and making pizza bagels—gross. I suggested we take a ride over the bridge (or through the tunnel, or on a train—so many ways to get to the city!) and have a authentic NYC meal. I was shot down.

I Came Upon Our New York Meal Entirely By Accident

When we went to Ocean City last week, it was ridiculously cold, despite being Spring Break and all. Believe it or not, there’s plenty to do there, even when it’s cold. For starters, there are tons of outlet stores, including a kitchen tools store. Hubby loves this store. That’s where he got his cast iron skillet that he used for the South Carolina meal. This time he picked up a flour sifter. Apparently he’s always wanted one. It was 4 bucks—I told him to knock himself out. (Insert giant eyeroll here.) The other day I was searching for recipes that would require me to actually use this flour sifter. That’s when I came across a recipe for New York Crumb Cake on Epicurious.

It Should Be Called “Yum Cake”

Who doesn’t like crumb cake? It’s combination cake and sugary crumb topping can make even the most devoted dieter swoon. One time hubby and I actually walked 6 miles for crumb cake. Good crumb cake. Because not all crumb cake is created equal. Oh no, siree. A dried out cake is a disgrace that you don’t ever want to endure. Oh and to clear things up…crumb cake is NOT the same as coffee cake. Coffee Cake does not have crumbs on top, which are the star of the cake.

Anyhoo, the ingredients are simple—you probably have most of them at home already and you can make this crumb cake RIGHT NOW. (You might have to go out for the secret ingredient, though.)

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The Secret Ingredient

The secret to a moist (ah, moist…the world’s most hated word) cake is actually sour cream. Yeah, you wouldn’t think such a sweet treat would include sour cream, but any crumb cake recipe worth its salt does. This recipe also calls for an obscene amount of butter—which is probably the reason each piece is a whooping 660 calories. Yikes. But it’s so worth it for homemade, not dried out crumb cake.

Ingredients for the topping

1 c dark brown sugar (packed)

1/2 c granulated sugar

1 1/4 TBSP cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 c (2 sticks) melted UNSALTED butter

2 1/2 c flour

Ingredients for the Cake

2 1/2 c flour

1 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) UNSALTED butter at room temp

1 1/2 c sugar

1 1/3 c sour cream

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift flour: img_0586Add baking soda, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer (I got to use my Kitchen Aid again, YAH!!!), beat room-temperature butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Add sour cream and vanilla extract and beat just until blended. Add flour mixture a little bit at a time. Transfer cake batter to square baking dish; spread batter evenly.
  2. For topping: Mix both sugars, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl and whisk to blend. Add warm melted butter and stir to blend. Add flour and toss with fork until moist clumps form (topping mixture will look slightly wet). Squeeze small handfuls of topping together to form small clumps. Drop topping clumps evenly over cake batter, covering completely (topping will be thick). *Just a note here, I prefer a more crumbly topping. I think when I make this again, I will use a different recipe for the topping…also one that uses confectioner’s sugar—I could have used the flour sifter to spread that too.
  3. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and topping is deep golden brown and slightly crisp, about 1 hour. Cool cake in dish on rack at least 30 minutes. (Once again, I used the Cuisinart)img_0592

The Verdict

Like I said, I prefer my crumb more crumbly. I would use a recipe that uses CAKE flour instead of all purpose flour for the topping in the future. And I would add confectioner’s sugar. Other than that, the cake was nice and moist and yummy.

Believe it or not, the family did not eat the crumb cake until the next day (after it had been covered with foil). I realize that was a no-no and I should have put it in a Tupperware container, but I really thought they would devour the damn thing in one day. But anyway, it was still good…but not as good as it was Day 1.

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I’ll have to try this one again soon—I’d highly recommend it if you’re a fan of New York Crumb Cake.

 

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Nevada

Confession: We pulled Nevada way back in January. After much research on our usual state food sites, we couldn’t come up with any specific state foods. I even pleaded with the followers of my Facebook Page to help me out—find out what they eat in Nevada.

I got radio silence. Nobody had a clue. All Nevada seemed to be famous for was casinos. And as a result—buffets were their “cuisine”. What were we supposed to do for our Nevada dinner? Spread out the contents of the fridge and say “Have at it kids?”

No. That wouldn’t do. Hubs and I put our heads together and considered the many items one would typically find at a buffet and make that. Crab legs? We used them for Alaska. Sushi? No way. Pizzas? Meh. Prime rib. Who doesn’t love a nice cut of prime rib (besides vegetarians)? I hadn’t had prime rib in ages. Hubby hadn’t had prime rib in ages. It was settled. We would have Prime Rib.

That was problem #1 solved. Problem #2 was acquiring this prime rib. Apparently, there’s a prime rib season. At least there is around here. I combed supermarket after supermarket in search of the ever elusive cut of prime rib. After about two weeks of searching, hubby suggested we wait until closer to Easter—Prime rib is a big Easter meat, I guess. So that’s what we did. Not only were we able to find a nice piece of prime rib mid-March, but there was a coupon in our supermarket’s circular as well. Score.

There’s really not too much to say about the prime rib meal. We decided on sides for the meal and made sure we had everything on hand for our feast. Everyone wanted to participate in it, so of course we had to wait for a night everyone was home. The last snowstorm of the winter (at least we thought it was the last snowstorm of the winter), seemed like a good night for our Vegas dinner.

Since it was snowing and the grill was covered with about 6 inches of that crap, hubs cooked the meat in the oven (directions here)...after rubbing the meat down with some garlic rosemary oregano butter.

This was the only time we’ve used the oven since getting the Cuisinart air fryer/convection oven. It probably will be the last time as well as the prime rib was even rarer than we wanted initially:

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While I do like my meat on the redder side (and prime rib is supposed to be medium rare), this was even too rare for me (the thermometer read 110 degrees and it should be 120). Hubby stuck it back in the oven while he made baked potatoes (in the air fryer) and the au jus on the stove. The finally product was delicious and well worth the two and a half month wait. This was a fabulous sight on a cold and snowy night:

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Of course, the dishes created were not a fabulous sight:

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The Bad Mommy Cooks—Ohio

When we pulled Ohio, nothing came to mind as far as cuisine was concerned. After a little research I discovered that Ohio is known for one really common food item—Cincinnati style chili. There’s even a restaurant chain called the Skyline that specializes in this chili. From what I could tell, it seems to be a dietary staple in Ohio.

We’ve had chili before, in fact, my kids LOVE it; but we’ve only had Texas style chili. Texas chili (or chili con carne) is beef (I used ground beef) in a tomato based sauce with chili spices. We like our chili mixed with corn and elbow pasta. The kids and I are divided on beans vs. no beans so we usually alternate with the beans. Hubby hates beans of all kinds and refuses to eat the chili I make (hence why I usually make it when he’s working). The kids are also married to the elbow pasta that usually accompanies my chili and they made faces when I told them this chili is served with spaghetti. Ohio chili was going to be a hard sell.

However, I found out that this kind of chili can be two-way, three-way, four-way, or five-way chili. Get your mind out of the gutter…this is just referring to the toppings that people choose to put on their chili.

 

Two-way: Chili and spaghetti

Three-way: chili, spaghetti, cheddar cheese

Four-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, raw onion or kidney beans (diehard fans apparently do not acknowledge the bean option of a four-way…onions are a true four-way…whatevs)

Five-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, onion, and bean

Oyster crackers are another topping that are found on this chili, but they are optional. (Good, because I detest oyster crackers. I bought them anyway and my daughter ate the whole bag.)

Based on several Pinterest recipes, I did my best to recreate the Skyline Chili classic.

I started off by heating 1 TBSP oil in my Pampered Chef rock crock over medium-high heat. Then I added onions (from one finely chopped sweet onion) and cooked until they were tender. I added 1 clove of minced garlic, 2 TBSP chili powder (I used chipotle chili powder….shhhh don’t tell anyone), a sprinkle of dried oregano (I don’t measure oregano), 2 tsp of cinnamon (yes, cinnamon!), 1 tsp of allspice, and 1/2 tsp of ground cloves. I stirred about 30 seconds and then added 2 cups of chicken broth, 16 oz of tomato sauce, 2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar, 2 TBSP of tomato paste, 2 tsp of brown sugar, and 2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce. I sprinkled some salt and pepper, too.

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It was smelling pretty awesome at this point. At least to me. The kids wandered in and scrunched up their faces asking “What is that awful smell?” Weirdos.

Anyway, the recipe instructed me to add the 2 lbs of ground beef at this point in time, so I scrolled back to the top, frantically searching for the point where I was supposed to brown this beef…did I miss that part? I reread the whole recipe…I couldn’t find it anywhere! Did that mean I was supposed to add this raw meat to the sauce?

I was really nervous about this. Usually I brown my beef and then add the sauce, but heck, this was a different style. If they said add the beef, I was adding the beef:

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I brought the chili to a boil as instructed and then reduced it to a simmer for an additional 15 minutes. This was a quick recipe to whip up for a weeknight.

After it was cooked, I set out the toppings:

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and called in the family for quick instructions on how to eat this chili. They mostly ignored me and made it any way they wanted.

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That was mine, hubby’s, and my daughter’s. My son ate the chili and spaghetti separately so that doesn’t even count and was definitely not photo-worthy.

The reviews were mixed. I really loved it. It was a different take on a meal I love anyway. My daughter also liked it a lot, but my son was so annoyed by the spaghetti that he couldn’t get past it to enjoy the meal. Hubby was also not a big fan, but like I said, he’s not really a chili person to begin with. This one will have to go in the “meals to make when it’s just me & my daughter” category. I’ll have to cut the recipe in half the next time I make it. Even though I had this for lunch a few days later, I still ended up throwing out a ton of it. (Plus spaghetti does NOT taste good warmed up). If you like chili, I would definitely give this Cincinnati Chili a try.

 

 

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Arkansas

Arkansas. Hubby picked this one out of the hat and handed it to me with a shrug. “They can’t all be winners,” he said.

Arkansas was one of those states we weren’t looking forward to. I mean what were we going to have? Possum pie? We joked about that, but I discovered that possum pie is actually a thing—but thankfully it’s not made out of possum. I’m sure in the Ozarks right now, someone’s eating a pie made of possum, but there’s an actual dessert called “Possum Pie” and it doesn’t look too bad. That being said, I want an actual meal for each state, not a dessert. More internet searching was necessary.

All the research that I did pointed to Arkansas’s cuisine being reflective of their economy and the resources around them; catfish, okra, barbecue, anything fried… To be quite honest, nothing was really shouting Try Me! We had already covered quite a few southern states, sampling some of the cuisine popular in Arkansas and the rest was, well, not as appetizing as I had hoped.

Fortunately, I stumbled across the blog of a woman who was on a similar “state tour of food”, Tracy Tastes America. Her blog included many state recipes, including one for Arkansas Cornbread Sandwiches—ham and Swiss sandwiched between slices of cheesy cornbread. I like ham, I like cornbread, I LOVE cheese…SOLD! We could make the sandwiches for lunch on Sunday and watch Nascar like real southerners 🏁(Hubby watches Nascar regularly…Nascar time is when I usually take a nap on Sundays. It’s a great tradition.) 😏

Not everyone else in the family was as enthused as I was. Not a fan of cornbread, ham, or cheese, my son announced that the sandwiches sounded disgusting and he would not be partaking in eating them. Which was fine. Too bad for him—it’s his loss. He’s not experiencing the country’s finest food like we are.

The recipe consisted of simple ingredients, most of which we had on hand with the exception of the cornbread mix. I popped out to the store to retrieve a box of “Jiffy” cornbread and was delighted to discover that it only cost $0.59. What costs $0.59 anymore??? Seriously, you can’t even get a pack of gum for under $1. I bought two boxes just because it was such a bargain.

In the process of scouring the internet, I found a similar recipe on Pinterest—this one said that because the cornbread was apt to fall apart as sandwich bread, so I should NOT add the egg as the Jiffy recipe on the box calls for, but triple the milk content (1 cup). The 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese added to the cornbread mix should also help keep the bread together.

 

I was also excited at another opportunity to use my Cuisinart (seriously Cuisinart, why aren’t you sponsoring me yet???).

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The bread was supposed to cook for 20-25 minutes on 425, but in my fabulous new toy it baked in 12 minutes!

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Since I’ve been reading a lot of recipes for the state tour, for some reason I thought there was bacon on these sandwiches. There was not. At any rate, I bought bacon for the sandwiches and what the hell…who doesn’t like a few slices of bacon on their sandwich? We added bacon. Plus, it gave hubby the opportunity to use his new toy, the cast iron skillet. 🙄

*Side note: I’m not allowed to touch this cast iron skillet. I was joking with him on the phone the other night and I told him I used it to make cheesesteaks and I could hear his blood pressure go up. I got a ten minute lecture on cleaning the skillet properly so I didn’t ruin it. 🤦🏻‍♀️

img_0488 The sandwiches themselves were simple to assemble: mayo spread on the bread, add lettuce, tomato, red onion, ham, and Swiss (and the bacon if you’d like). I cringed about the mayo—IMHO mayo and ham do not mix, but I added it anyway. I absolutely refused to add the red onion however…there are just some things I will not compromise on.

img_0489 Surprisingly, it was a very tasty sandwich and very filling as well. We ate around 1:30 and none of us were hungry for dinner until much later than usual. Here is the dog, upset that we weren’t sharing our sandwiches with him:

img_0486 So go grab a box or two of Jiffy cornbread…the next time you’re having a lazy Sunday afternoon, you can whip up these sandwiches in no time for a yummy Arkansas lunch…no possum needed.

The Bad Mommy Cooks—South Carolina

An amazing thing happened when we made the South Carolina meal. Are you ready for this??? Hubby…made a cooking mistake! Yes! It’s true! He is mortal! More on that in a minute.

First off, we had a hard time picking what to make for this state because everything we came across on Pinterest looked so damn delish. South Carolina is one of those states that really knows what they’re doing with food—which is the main reason I have been dreaming about living there for decades. Pimento cheese, a seafood boil, and BBQ were high on our list, but eventually, the most iconic of South Carolina foods prevailed—Shrimp and grits.

I’ve had shrimp and grits a few times in restaurants and it is DEEEEE-LICIOUS. Hubby and the fam have not had it, so it took a little convincing to make this our South Carolina meal, but ultimately, it was a great choice. The recipe and prep were SO easy and the meal was SO tasty. Well, the recipe WAS easy, but hubby still flubbed it…a little.

So he was very excited to get to use his cast iron skillet that he recently bought, so while I brought the chicken stock for the grits to a boil, he used the skillet to cook the bacon:

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I added the grits to the boiling chicken stock and I found that the recipe I was using was quite vague about what to do next. The instructions on the box (Quaker grits) were much more helpful. You basically need to stir the grits for 20 minutes or so at a simmer. I wished it was quicker, but the whole process reminded me of that scene from “My Cousin Vinny” where Joe Pesci is berating the witness when he tells him his grits took 5 minutes to make…

“Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than on any place on the face of the earth? Do the laws of physics cease to exist on YOUR stove? Were these magic grits?” 😂😂😂Love that movie. (Not set in South Carolina, though.)

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Anyhoo…

I was also in charge of “shrimp prep” which is basically the dirty work of removing the tail and shell. Hubby got to saute them when the bacon was done:

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I was still stirring my grits. 🙄

Then hubby added the chopped green onion and parsley and lemon juice. I make him chop because he’s much better at it than I am:

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I was still stirring grits when he added everything to the skillet. And THIS is where he screwed up. Instead of adding 2 TEASPOONS of Worcestershire Sauce, he added 2 TABLESPOONS.

HA!

Okay…maybe it’s not as bad as when I melted the bottom of the crock pot to the stove, but still…he’s not invincible in the kitchen. And what’s more, he kind of panicked (which was so cute) and tried to figure out what he could do to counteract the extra Worcestershire sauce. His solution was to add extra butter. Because the grits with butter and cheese and the bacon weren’t enough sludge for our veins. 🤨

But anyway, despite the minor mistake, our South Carolina meal was pretty straightforward and easy to prepare and cook…about 25 minutes (most of that was stirring the grits).

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It was really tasty, too and we all agreed that we’d make it again very soon. It’s definitely worth it if you’d like to try it yourself:

1 cup of grits

3 cups of chicken stock

2 pounds of shrimp

6 pieces of bacon

8 ounces of shredded cheese (we used cheddar)

1/2 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 TBSP of lemon juice

2 TBSP of butter

1 TBSP of parsley

2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce (TEASPOONS!!!!)

6 green onions, chopped (this is a RIDICULOUS amount of this horrible vegetable—we only used half that)

2 garlic cloves, minced (if you want more flavor, add more garlic, not those yucky green onions)

DIRECTIONS:

Boil chicken stock and add grits. Cook per directions on box of grits.

Cook bacon in skillet and remove, leaving the grease behind. Chop bacon and put aside. Saute shrimp in the same skillet. Add green onions, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Add bacon back in the skillet.

When the grits are cooked, add salt, pepper and butter. When butter melts, add cheese. Spoon the grits into a bowl and top with shrimp. Voila! A simple and quick Southern meal!

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Maine

This next state was among the top 5 states that we were looking forward to. A cheer rose through the house when we pulled Maine. We licked our chops when we pulled Maine. Friends were jealous that we pulled Maine. Seriously, we have a friend who is in love with Maine and everything that has to do with Maine—-including the food. Which is, of course, LOBSTER. We visited Maine a few years ago and had some of the best food there…especially the lobster.

This was one state food dinner that no one wanted to miss, so it took us a few weeks to arrange it. We debated about how to get the lobsters. Do we take an hour ride and go to the fishery? No, we didn’t have time for that. Do we buy them frozen? Hubby pooh-pooed that idea, heaven forbid he eat previously frozen seafood—he’s such a diva. We decided to get them from our local supermarket, steamed on the day that we chose for our Maine dinner. Unfortunately, the day we decided on was the day before the most recent Nor’ester hit us. Which meant…the grocery store was Armageddon.

I debated putting this dinner off for another few days rather than face the grocery store, but we needed to eat dinner anyway and who knows when all four of us would be available for dinner at a reasonable hour again. Since I was going anyway I made a list of other staples I would need to survive the storm…just like all the other bread and milkers. Hey, don’t judge—based on the snowfall predictions by the talented and inaccurate weather service, I was potentially going to be stuck in the house anywhere from an hour to fifty-two days with a teenager who needs a feed bag strapped to his face.

I braced myself for the onslaught of other desperate shoppers and boy, I was not disappointed. I had to park a half mile away and hike to the store. Shoppers were savagely ransacking the bread shelves and loading their carts with enough bottled water to fill a swimming pool. Women were pulling each other’s hair out for the last gallon of milk. Men were stabbing each other for frozen pizza. It was pandemonium.

Fortunately, there was no one on line at the seafood department. I was about to ask the woman behind the counter for four lobsters, but then my son texted me to tell me that his girlfriend was coming over for dinner. I asked him to be certain that she ate lobster because while I didn’t mind getting an extra one, I didn’t want to waste it. He assured me that she did indeed like lobster. Fine. The more the merrier. I asked the woman behind the counter for five lobsters, steamed. She looked at me like I had said lobsters crawling out of my ears.

“You having a party or something?” she asked.

“Nope. Just dinner.” I realize now that sounds a little stuck-up-ish. After all, most people in the store were stocking up on canned goods and other non-perishables for their dinner and here I was getting lobster. But I really didn’t have time to explain the whole concept of The Bad Mommy Cooks Around the USA to this lady. I had to get on line with the hundreds of other cattle.

When I say the lines stretched down the aisles, I’m not exaggerating at all. I literally was standing in the cereal aisle as I waited for the line to move. (I also picked up a couple boxes of cereal while waiting—why not?) The line moved forward painfully slow. I was also lucky enough to have a little old man in front of me. He not only flirted with me for twenty minutes, he thought he was a stand-up comedian as well. I considered jumping lines after awhile, but I knew I’d regret it—I’m notorious for doing that and the original line moves ten times faster than the new one. I finally got to the front and was out of the store after an hour. Yeah, I should have just taken the ride to the fish market. I would have taken just as long.

After that long in the store, you would think I had everything I needed for dinner, right? You’d be wrong. This is me we’re talking about. I planned to make a mushroom butternut squash risotto with the lobster—yes, I know what you’re thinking, you’re gonna make risotto??? Isn’t that too fancy for you? I assure you that this recipe is super easy and actually one of the few things I cook well. Unfortunately, the butternut squash that I bought on Sunday (I got it cut up because it’s time consuming to cut) was rancid already. I opened the lid to the container and it smelled like it was pickled. I was extra annoyed about this because I just bought it and I was just in the store.

Nevertheless, I made the risotto, sans butternut squash. There was nothing I had to do with the lobsters since I had them steamed at the store. All we needed was some drawn butter and we could get cracking. I opened up the bag of lobsters and discovered they had not given me five lobsters like I asked for, they gave me sixAnd yes, they charged me for all six.

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We did not need six lobsters since I wasn’t even sure if the original five were going to get eaten—oh yeah, we discovered that my son’s girlfriend does NOT like lobster. My son is a moron, ladies and gentlemen.

Anyhoo, I put the lobsters down in front of the kids:

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…and they gasped in shock. “I prefer the way restaurants serve it,” my son said. “I don’t know what to do with all this shell.”

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We had to walk the kids through the process of eating lobster, only to discover that the store had not steamed them thoroughly. Sections were rubbery and under-cooked. We had to pop pieces of lobster in the microwave just to eat it. I was very disappointed and the kids gave up on eating the lobster very quickly. Even when I had nothing to do with cooking the meal, I somehow screwed it up.

Normally, I would have marched the under-cooked lobsters back to the store, but remember all the people that were there earlier? It wasn’t worth it. Instead, we picked the lobsters apart and froze the remainder of the meat. Such a disappointment. Maybe we have to go to Maine for a proper “Maine” meal next time.