In all fairness I owe a lot of what’s written to my brother, Sean. He’s basically my 24/7 hotline for bouncing recipe ideas off of someone, and getting editing suggestions. Sometimes he’ll even blurt out, “you know what would be cool…,” and then hit me with some nifty idea that I try and work up. This was one of those times.
He threw the idea of putting sambal in arrabiata sauce. For those of you who don’t know arrabiata is a pasta sauce that consists of tomato, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. That’s it. I tried making this with just subbing out the chili for sambal and it was fine, there just wasn’t any magic.
Then I decided to add a couple of flavor friends, fish sauce for salty funk and ginger for extra pep in my step, and the flavor profile felt full and packed with umami.
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.
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!
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.
Have you ever had chicken teriyaki from a Sarku Japan inside a mall food court? Spoiler alert: it is borderlining obscenely delicious. When I first tried it when I was about eight-years-old I seriously thought I was the living definition of cultured.