This past night was my favorite nephew, Christopher’s, high school graduation party. I spent most of the day cooking and fretting about how I was going to get all this food into my car and not ruin my hair during the 72 hour monsoon that hit South Florida from all sides. I have always been a fervent believer in the “your hair is your crown and glory” religion. As I peeled the shrimp for the hors d’oeuvre I was taking, Blackened Shrimp Bites (recipe follows), I thought about when he entered our family. Of course, we already had the Darling of Naughty, Catherine. It’s not as if we were going to take her down to the river and drown her. We recognized her uniqueness…boy, did we! But a boy child? Well! Ain’t NOTHIN’ like a boy child. He king. That’s all there is to it. He duh king! He and James got along famously from day one and have shared a continuing passion for baseball.
I thought of the first time Jimmy took James and Christopher to a Marlins game. Christopher must have been all of five? He was a peanut! Lil half-pint legs too short still to hang down just stuck out in front of his seat. Anyway, Jimmy later told me that Christopher just sat there. Didn’t say a word. Jimmy was worried that he might be bored…not understand the game or like it. Turns out Christopher was concentrating with an unheard of intentness for one so small, his little brain just whirring with numbers, names, stats. Bootie, one of Christopher’s nicknames, was in his element!! We still laugh at how later in the game he turned to Jimmy and in a tiny, little boy voice said, “Mr. Carras? Will you buy me a hotdog?” Haha!!! Mr. Carras!! Gently Jimmy replied to Bootie, “Christopher, my name is Uncle Jimmy and of course you can have a hotdog!” I shook my head and chuckled as I remembered Bootie’s fourth birthday party. It was to be pirate party and they were having it at the Yacht Club. Chris made arrangements and the day before dug a big pit in the sand at the volleyball court. He then lowered a large, ornate chest that Pamela had filled with pirate treasure and candy and finally covered it with sand. The clues to find the pirate’s treasure were then hidden through the grounds. All of Bootie’s special people were to be there. That would have been family and the boy’s from St. Anthony’s Pre-K, Mrs. Sharpe’s Rainbow class.
The following day we all arrived at the party; the grownups made a beeline to the bar for the requisite Bloody or Mimosa. A few of the hard cores just went to into the club for scotch or rum. Anyway, Pamela had Chris all set up. He was to be the pirate. She had a black scarf tied around the side of his head and a black patch over one eye. On one ear he donned a large gold hoop and on his cheek he sported a drawn-on mammoth scar. She finished off his outfit with a flowy, open down the front shirt, a black vest and for pants…an old pair of scrubs!!! He had rubbed dirt all over his feet and he was barefooted. Argh! Wait!! He also had a huge sword that he was waving around!! He looked quite the part. In fact, Chris looked so good that some of the old guard sitting on the outside patio lunching didn’t recognise him and drew back with fear and revulsion when he passed by with his junior pack of future buccaneers!!! I think they just though he was some big zero trying to make a few bucks at a little boy’s birthday party! Haha!!! It was a great party!! All the little people got great pirate’s booty and the grownups got tanked!! But that’s not the funny part! What we REALLY laugh about now is that Christopher didn’t realize until just a few years ago that it was his father playing the pirate! Hahaha!! All this time he thought it was “just some pirate”. Oh, God, we just scream about that! I can still see Chris stomping around waving that sword and all those little pirates throwing their heads back and screaming “AAAAAARGH!!!”
And now our little pirate is going off to college. He’s movin’ on and probably won’t look back. (They never do.) So here’s my pirate treasure for you… another little gift from the sea. Blackened Shrimp Bites.
BLACKENED SHRIMP BITES
yield: 48-64 depending on how thick you cut them
- 2 pounds peeled, large shrimp
- 1/2 cup Cajun blackening seasoning
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 2 8-ounce packages softened cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper
- 4 cloves of fresh garlic, mashed into a paste
- 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers
- 1 package 10-inch flour tortillas, I used 11 tortillas
- 1 bag fresh baby spinach leave already washed
- 3 ripe Haas avocados, slice them as you need them so they don’t turn in color. When you do use them they will be cut into 1/4″ strips.
- Combine shrimp, blackening seasoning and cayenne if using in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill until needed.
- In another bowl combine cream cheese, paprika or cayenne and garlic, set aside.
- Drain red peppers and pat dry. Cut into thin strips lengthwise.
- Cover a large pan with non-stick spray and bring up to a high heat. When pan is hot add shrimp. Stir and move shrimp so they all cook uniformly. Remove from heat when they are cooked through.
- With a spatula spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture over the entire tortilla. This is your glue that’s going to keep the tortilla intact.
- Over one half of the tortilla press one layer of spinach leaves into the cream cheese. If you layer too many spinach leaves the tortilla won’t roll tightly and you’ll just have a big mess.
- Add two or three strips of red pepper in one straight line down over the spinach.
- On top of the peppers add another layer using two or three slices of avocado.
- Top with one or two good spoonfuls of shrimp, add where needed or take off if it’s too much.
- Starting at the spinach side, roll up tortilla as tightly as you can and place on a cookie sheet or pan. You’re going to chill all this for a while so make certain it fits in your refrigerator.
- Continue until finished gently putting rolls on top of each other and place in refrigerator to chill for at least a couple of hours.
- Prior to serving cut each roll into 6 to eight serving pieces, secure each bite with a wooden pick and stack prettily on a platter.