A dish that tests well and then succeeds as a core menu item is the brass ring in foodservice. Balancing a sense of discovery within an approachable concept can be a precarious endeavor, but a worthy one. Applebee’s is cracking the code with its Firecracker Shrimp Cavatappi.
“The fan favorite of this dish is the crispy, lightly breaded shrimp that have been fried and seasoned with our spicy seasoning blend,” says Cammie Spillyards-Schaefer, VP of Culinary & Menu Strategy, and the head of a stellar seven-person innovation team at Applebee’s. “We serve this over piping hot cavatappi pasta that has been tossed in our rich and creamy Sriracha-Parmesan cream sauce.” Finishing touches include a vegetable relish, a drizzle of a sweet-spicy dumpling sauce and a shake of spicy seasoning blend.
“The layers of flavors in this dish pair perfectly together,” she says. “The combination of our spicy Sriracha and Parmesan cream sauce allows for the heat to come through just enough to create a flavorful and alluring sensation. Our dumpling sauce adds to the overall flavor by balancing out the creamy and the spicy with just enough sweetness and acidity to please the palate, and our lightly breaded shrimp and freshly made vegetable relish add the right amount of texture to the dish.”
Innovating within familiar flavor profiles is perhaps the smartest pathway to menu stardom, and the success of this dish makes a strong case for it. “This pasta contains a lot of ubiquitous ingredients that, once paired together, create vibrant, appealing flavors,” adds Ramon Solorzano, Culinary Operations Chef. “In addition, the abundant portion size helps to tie everything together and create a valuable dining experience for our guests.”
The Firecracker Shrimp Cavatappi is a new addition to the menu. “It has been performing exceptionally well. This dish was tested in specific markets throughout the U.S., and the guest feedback was so overwhelmingly positive that we decided to make it a part of our core menu,” he says. The culinary team at Applebee’s says that Sriracha still has a lot to offer. “It has many great uses and adds that extra kick needed to elevate flavors,” says Solorzano. “This has already become part of a few other menu items and will continue to help add the subtle heat and flavor sometimes needed in dishes.”