This year’s Valentine’s week was quite an awakening that began with the redeye gravy vinaigrette my husband drizzled around parmesan grits and herb grilled shrimp. That’s right, I still swoon – that is how my meal started and it turns out my mild mannered rocket man’s got mad, nascent kitchen skills that were just waiting for him to get cozy with Not Afraid of Flavor, a cookbook from Ben and Karen Barker.
A couple of years ago we were overeating at the Barkers’ (sadly now closed) restaurant, Magnolia Grill in Durham, NC. We savored, we conquered, we tucked a signed cookbook under an arm on the way out. Unfortunately we didn’t officially put it to work right away which can happen when your cookbook collection warrants its own wing of the house. Fortunately Brian chose it for his muse in planning his Valentine gastronomy which led to this first course, which is officially one of my favorite food (and sweetheart) moments. From the book:
Spicy Grilled Shrimp with Grits Cake, Country Ham, & Redeye Gravy Vinaigrette
What can we say about shrimp and grits? The late Bill Neal popularized the traditional low country breakfast dish at his own Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill. We love the flavor combination of country ham, grits, and ‘redeye gravy,’ so this rendition combines shrimp and our own uptown version of ‘redeye’ as both a vinaigrette and a sauce for the grilled shrimp and a rich grits cake.
What can I say about this recipe? Ben and Karen, you’ve done Bill Neal proud, introduced me to a newly beloved sauce, and awakened the latent, Intrepid Chef Brian. Hope he’s ready to keep cooking!