Shrimp Fra Diavlo with Cacio E Pepe Grits

A trip to Charleston, South Carolina had the power to turn anyone into a shrimp and grits eating fool. Most traditional shrimp and grits recipes use a kind of tomato-y peppery sauce on top of the shrimp. I wanted to take that idea and cheesy grits and kick it into overdrive.

Shrimp fra diavlo keeps the kind of spicy tomato goodness on a classic shrimp and grits, but amps up the garlic and herb content to make it sing. And the cacio e pepe grits? Ohhhhh those grits. Cacio e pepe is a Roman pasta dish that is essentially the real Italian version of an Alfredo. Cacio e pepe translates into cheese and pepper. So think parmesan cheesy grits with a huge black pepper punch. Even my friend Mike who lived in Charleston called them the best grits he’s ever had. Put simply, this shrimp and grits goes beyond classic Charleston into nirvana.

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Hoisin Pork Belly and Vegetable Stir Fry

I feel like this dish was one of those when the planets and stars align situations. The recipe I originally intended to post tonight failed me so I had to think on my feet fast. I needed something fast, so I thought stirfry. Then I remembered we just entered Chinese year of the pig, so I had hoped and prayed the Walmart next to my work would have a good cut of pork I could create a Chinese inspired dish with. I thought the best case scenario would be hacking up dome pork chops. But then the clouds parted and the angels sang because I saw the crown jewel, pork belly. In that moment I knew this dish was meant to be.

My main inspiration for the flavors of this dish was one of my favorite things, char siu pork, which is a preparation utilizing hoisin sauce. Hoisin is almost like the bbq sauce of China. It’s sweet, a little funky, and sticky. I can’t get enough. The sweet and fatty pork belly with the massive bounty of veggies make this dish an excellent start to the new year!

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Honey Butter Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Brunch rules. It gives you an excuse to day drink, and it’s a time where people get creative in food combinations. Hi chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and biscuits and gravy. One by one I’m on a mission to provide the best brunch recipes, and this here is a special one.

My brother Sean, aka The Biscuit Queen, is the most incredible baker. He provided the extra fluffy, extremely layered, and above all; inordinately buttery recipe for the biscuits. I could wax poetic about how beautiful and artisinal these biscuits are with their subtle honey flavor and golden glow.

And to pair with them is my sausage gravy that’s packed with fresh sage and some crushed red pepper for your nerve. The salty gravy with attitude absorbs so beautifully into the sweet and buttery biscuits.

In short, this dish tastes like warmth and family because that’s where it comes from. You also get to read the recipe as my brother wrote it which is fun.

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French Onion Soup with Garlic Bread Croutons

On my list of ultimate comfort foods French onion soup is preeeeetty high up. Every time I see it on a menu I have to get it. If it were possible to be a French onion soup sommelier you could expect to see a blue checkmark next to my name.

While time consuming, making a good broth is simple enough, so to step my game up I went to the most often overlooked part of the preparation, the bread. While a baguette does a marvelous job of soaking up the soup I thought homemade garlic bread croutons would be the perfect opportunity to inject a little more flavor into the soup. And between the gruyere on top, the sweet and savory onion soup, and buttery garlic bread the soup almost has a, and bear with me here, juicy mouthfeel. Yes I’m aware soup is liquid and so is juice, and yes I used the term mouthfeel. It’s just so many things bursting at once you can’t help but want more.

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Black Magic Risotto

There’s something so magical about Halloween. From watching Hocus Pocus, to gorging on sweets it really is one of my favorite times of year. For this Halloween I wanted to come up with a dark and spooky dish to fit the season.

One ingredient came to mind, squid ink. Squid ink has become a really exciting ingredient for me. I’ve had it in nicer restaurants and enjoyed it. And of course we can’t forget my pasta for goths recipe that stars squid ink pasta. Squid ink gives a beautiful briny, ocean-like flavor to whatever you add it to. Squid ink used to be a hard to find luxury ingredient, but we live in the age of the internet and you can easily find it online.

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Cheesy Baked Bacon and Cauliflower

Anyone who has attempted to be halfway healthy has learned that cauliflower is a miracle vegetable. Floating around the internet you can find recipes for cauliflower pizza crust, cauliflower bread, and other types of witchcraft. But did you know that you can use cauliflower as a thickening agent in sauces and gravys instead of a roux? Because you totally can!

That’s the magic to this recipe. You get all the warmth and gooiness of a bacon mac and cheese (cooking the cauliflower in bacon grease doesn’t hurt), but you’re also doubling down on the veggie goodness. Is it the healthiest thing on the planet? Not quite. But can you feel relatively guilt free about this? Of course! It makes an awesome side or main dish.

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Pumpkin Gnocchi with Pancetta and Sage Brown Butter

The month of October, like the Walmart seasonal aisle, has two sides. First you have the spooky Halloween side with all the fake blood and skeleton decor your heart could desire. Then you have the warm, autumnal items. Think burlap wreathes and pillows with stitching that reads “thankful” or “blessed.” I made it a goal this month on fancy redneck to capture the duality of October with my recipes. After all, it is Libra season and balance is critical.

First up to capture warmth and fall flavors I have pumpkin gnocchi. Usually when I make gnocchi at home I use sweet potato, but really wanted to stretch myself with an ingredient I never use, pumpkin. The combination of the fried sage, pancetta, brown butter, and pumpkin together really create a symphony on the tongue with the only component missing being the crunch of leaves on the ground.

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Mom’s Spaghetti

All Eminem refrences and memes aside, my mom’s spaghetti was always the pinnacle of comfort food. What beats a warm, hearty bowl of spaghetti? As an added bonus my mom’s recipe is simple, cheap, and jumbo-sized enough to feed a family of four for days. For a recipe that will keep you feeling warm and fuzzy and won’t fail you even when your palms are sweaty look no further.

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Fried Macaroni and Cheese

A fact about me: Dinner parties are my ish. I love attending them, I love hosting them, but most of all I love making unreasonable amounts of food for them. One time I attended a potluck for the opening of a local music venue and had to use a laundry basket to carry in all the food I made. Seriously. So take it from this potluck princess, fried macaroni and cheese makes the perfect party bite.

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