Shrimp Etouffee and Italian Beef

Today’s post is going to be a first for the blog.

“Will it be well written and clever?”

Probably not. No, it will be a first because I am combining two different meals into one post. I know, I know, your world has just been shattered. Everything you thought you knew about this blog has just changed. The reasoning is because both meals were disappointing and I don’t think I can stretch out two separate posts to make the sentiment known. I am not known for my brevity so this is a pretty big deal. You’re welcome.

First up, Emeril’s shrimp etouffee. We visited New Orleans about five years ago and while there, I bought a book on New Orleans cuisine. I’m pretty sure it was self published because it’s bound by those plastic spiral things and most of the recipes are credited to random people all over the city. Now that I think about it, why did I buy this cookbook? I’m sure there were other, better books at the bookstore. I’m going to blame alcohol.

Anyway, there’s a shrimp etouffee recipe in there that I was going to use but then I actually read it the night before I was supposed to make the meal and it didn’t look right. It only required six ingredients, most of which were “pinches” of spices, and the instructions were literally five sentences. I’m no Bubba Gump but I’m pretty sure shrimp etouffee is more involved than that.

Enter Emeril. I Googled a recipe and his came up first. Emeril can be trusted, he’s from New Orleans. Or Louisiana. I could Google it but no, don’t want to. I followed his recipe to a T except for the part where he said to make a shrimp stock from the shells of the shrimp. I couldn’t do this because I bought shelled and deveined shrimp so I did the next best thing: I added water.

Don’t do what I did. My etouffee lacked BAM. All the bam was gone, it didn’t even show up. It was okay but very bland. It could have benefited from some salt. At my cousin’s suggestion, I sprinkled some cayenne pepper on it and that made a huge difference. We had a lot of leftovers so I’ve been eating it for lunch the past two days. The cayenne pepper has made a load of difference so if you do end up doing what I did, add the cayenne.


I had never heard of Italian Beef until a friend from back home suggested it when I asked for ideas on FB. He’s actually not back home anymore, he moved to Illinois in junior high (Hi John!). When I first read his suggestion, I just thought it was going to be some type of beef that was seasoned with like oregano and roasted. Turns out, I wasn’t far off. It is a roast, and it is seasoned with oregano (along with other spices) but it’s a sandwich.


I forgot to buy the right bread for the sandwich. I usually do all my grocery shopping on Tuesday and had planned this meal for the weekend. I didn’t want to buy the rolls on Tuesday and have them go stale by the weekend so I made a mental note to go back over the weekend and buy fresh rolls.

Except I forgot that mental note because my mind cannot be trusted. It wasn’t until I was slicing the beef that I realized I didn’t have the right bread and I was in no mood to go shopping so I used some French bread we had instead. Don’t use French bread, use a hoagie, it makes a difference. I mean, I don’t know what Italian Beef is supposed to taste like but based on the crazy cult following, I doubt it tastes like what we had. I also couldn’t get the beef thin enough and I think that had something to do with the overall flavor.

So American week ended with a womp womp. At least the meals weren’t fried so there’s that. In order to give our stomachs a break, I’m preparing Indonesian food this week. Gimme some veggies!






Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce and Apple Pie

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before but I’m an only child. I mean, both of my parents each had two children in their first marriage but I wasn’t raised with them and I’m the only one my parents had together so I’m still technically an only child. People who are the only child get a bad rap. We’re often portrayed as spoiled, stubborn, and extremely opinionated. I’ll admit, I’m all those but I’m also generous, kind (being kind is different from being nice, fyi), and very self-aware. I feel like it all balances out to where I’m a semi-functioning contributing member of society.

In addition to having all those wonderful qualities, I have another that I am not proud of: I hate being wrong. Now many people hate being wrong but I feel like only children especially hate being wrong. I think part of it is we rarely had peers who would call us out on being wrong and we don’t know how to handle it. Parents telling you you’re wrong is one thing, that’s their job, but a peer doing it brings to light a whole other layer of reflection. And not just a peer but a sibling. From what I’ve observed, siblings tell each other they’re wrong all the time and they rarely get their feelings hurt or feel like their intellect is being questioned. Some of it is probably learning how to choose your battles but I think the biggest is knowing that even though that person just said you’re wrong, they still have to love you and you being wrong doesn’t change that.

Only children don’t get that. If someone told us we were wrong during our formative years, we had to prove that we weren’t. If we couldn’t, that would be a failure on not just our debating skills but maybe our knowledge of the subject (translation: we felt stupid). And you know who gets rejected? Stupid people. So we have a fear of being wrong because not only does it make us feel dumb but what if it leads to people not liking us? It’s already hard enough to find people that will play with you because they want to and not because they have to. WE HAVE TO KEEP THESE PEOPLE.

I bring all this up so you’ll understand how hard it is for me to admit that I was wrong about American cuisine being made up mostly of fried foods. It totally is.

Really Melissa? All that introspection to admit what we already knew?!

You know what else only children are? Dramatic.

After the heart attack inducing meal of chicken fried steak, mac n’ cheese, and fried okra, I decided to try something much healthier: fried buffalo wings in cheese sauce with an apple pie that required almost a pound of butter. I’m scheduling an artery cleaning for next week.

I got the idea to make this meal from my friend’s mother, who is from Buffalo, New York. I always forget the New York connection when I think of Buffalo wings. I actually forget about any connection with Buffalo wings when I’m eating them because I’m too busy shoving deliciousness into my mouth to think about anything else.

They weren’t difficult to make although I am currently nursing a minor grease burn on my arm from frying the wings. I made sure to pat them dry before putting them in the hot oil but those suckers still popped more than champagne bottles at a Sunday brunch. The floor and counter top around my stove was super slick and there is still a slight sheen to it.

I know my pic of the sauce looks like it’s just sour cream but I swear there are bigass chunks of blue cheese in there. I probably should have broken down the cheese a bit more but meh, still good.


The apple pie was to die for and I don’t like pies. I’m not big on desserts in general but pies especially make me want to gag. I think it’s the warm, squishy texture of the fruit. I love what the syrups do to the crusts but I don’t think anyone sells pie crusts that have been soaked in syrup. They should. I misjudged the amount of apples I’d need so it wasn’t as full as it should have been but that’s okay, the filling is my least favorite part of pies anyway. The crust was incredibly flaky and broke apart as soon as my fork touched it. It was fabulous!

As I was eating all this good food, I literally said to James “Fat American food is so good!” Fine, we don’t eat the healthiest food out there but we’re very happy and that counts for something. Happiness is a plate of fried food.

Recipe, Recipe

Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Mac n’ Cheese, and Fried Okra

In honor of America’s birthday, we ate American food last week. I asked for meal suggestions on Facebook because while I’m very familiar with Texan and southern cuisine, I’m a little lost when it comes to the rest of the country. I mean, I know basics like deep dish pizza from Chicago, chowder from the northeast, and pretentious vegetarian food from California but the rest of the country is a big ‘ol question mark. There were some very good suggestions, like the Italian beef I’d never heard of and plan on making tomorrow, and many eye roll inducing suggestions like “Fried everything” and “Super sized food.” Haha, I get it, we’re a country of bad eaters, bahaha, so funny. I never knew how patriotic I was until my friends started making fun of themselves and the rest of the country.

So you can imagine my “Goddamit!” moment when I decided on chicken fried steak, mac n’ cheese, and fried okra for our first meal. Fried meat, carbs smothered in butter, and fried vegetables. Cholesterol heaven! But the truth is, I love this meal and it’s one of my favorites. I have told my husband many times that I don’t ever want to live in a state where they don’t serve chicken fried steak and I’m serious. A life without chicken fried steak is not a life worth living. I think I’ve also told him that should I ever end up on Death Row, I will probably request chicken fried steak as my last meal. I mean, at that point, why do I need to worry about clogged arteries?

Considering this is one of my favorites, I’ve never made it. Aside from the mashed potatoes, I’ve never made any of the parts of this meal. I’ve made instant mac n’ cheese but that doesn’t count. I’ve made roasted okra and okra casserole but never fried. And I’ve made my fair share of actual fried chicken but not chicken fried steak*. The reason is simple: it’s work. You wouldn’t think frying stuff would take a lot of time but you have to watch frying food so you don’t burn it and mac n’ cheese is pretty sensitive as well; it’s very easy to get clumpy cheese and that will ruin the whole thing.

Before I started, I got everything out and did the whole mise en place to make life a little easier and to not ruin my meal. I highly recommend doing this otherwise your kitchen will look like a disaster. I mean, mine still looked like I got a bag of flour and some grease and sprayed the whole kitchen but it could have been so much worse. I still failed at timing everything so it was ready at the same time. I ended up finishing the mac n’ cheese earlier than expected and let it sit in the oven, with the oven off, an extra three minutes so it came out a little dry but still fully edible. My okra was also room temperature but in retrospect, that wasn’t a bad thing. Hot okra is never fun.

But what was fun was me eating this meal! I was in hog heaven, complete with food coma afterwards. I’ve had chicken fried steak that was dry because it was fried too long but not mine #humblebrag. Mine had the right amount of breading and was still very juicy. The mac n’ cheese, although slightly dry, was CHEESE OVERLOAD but in a good way. And the okra was perfection! Crispy on the outside, smushy on the inside, and I was popping it inmy mouth like popcorn. Everyone was happy and how could they not? This meal is the definition of southern comfort food.

So yeah, maybe we are a country of fatties but whatever, we’re happy and you can kiss our grits.

*Chicken fried steak gets its name from the fact that it’s steak prepared in the manner of fried chicken.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe