The Big 3: Shiitake Mushrooms, Sriracha Hot Sauce and Monterey Jack Cheese

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Sriracha is having its food moment. It's everywhere, from Bon Appetit magazine to numerous chef's tables to Asian dives. And why not? It has a great flavor and allows you to really kick up the heat factor in a dish. Lately, we've been enjoying it with shiitake mushrooms and Monterey Jack cheese. Why that combo? Well, mushrooms are such a deliciously neutral canvas that they really get infused with the flavor of the Sriracha heat. And once we get that heat to an intolerable level, we like to cool it down with the creaminess of a nice mild cheese, like Monterey Jack.

Here are a few ways to experiment with these flavors :

Not Your Mama's Grits - We love grits. There are so many ways to dress them up. In fact, there was a great write-up a few months ago right on this very blog space about how to make the perfect grits. So starting with that great base, we just incorporated some diced shiitakes, a few squirts of fiery Sriracha*, and some freshly grated Monterey Jack. It really gets us going in the morning.

Rooster Omelet - Though this would obviously work for breakfast, we enjoy it much more when we're in one of our "breakfast for dinner, wearing our PJs and watching CSI" moods. Add the Sriracha to the egg mixture before pouring it in the pan, cook the eggs until almost done, then add your cheese and sautéed shiitakes. It's also great to sauté some diced onion and baby spinach along with the mushrooms. Fold your omelet and serve it with some buttered toast.

Chicken a' la Spicy - Marinate a chicken breast in some Sriracha, one clove of minced garlic, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Add some olive oil to a hot skillet and brown the chicken on both sides. Transfer to a plate and top with some freshly grated Monterey Jack. Deglaze the pan with a ¼ cup of good white wine, allow it to reduce, then add the shiitakes and cook until tender. Pour the mushroom sauce over the cheesy chicken.

(*Note: The amount of Sriracha to use depends on your personal heat tolerance.)

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