lobster rolls and slow-fried french fries with old bay aioli

What a difference a year makes.  365 days ago (although it feels a little like a lifetime ago), I was told I had cancer.  Tears welled up in my eyes as my doctor explained it was likely lymphoma (it wasn’t) and for the most part, I held it together as I left the doctor’s office.  I made it as far as the parking garage before I began to unravel.  Thread by thread, I fell apart as I sat in my car, cried, and desperately tried to reach my husband on every phone number I knew for him.

I drove home, tears blinding my vision, and once there, I hugged my pup, called my family one by one, and waited for Ben who was racing to get home to me.  My mind was spinning with questions – will I die?  Will I ever be able to have children?  What will treatment be like?  Is this going to hurt?  How did this happen?  This can’t be right, can it?  I will never forget that day.

A cancer diagnosis is comparable to being on a speeding train.  Once you step on, you hold on for dear life and watch as appointments, strange faces, and vial after vial of blood pass you by.  Your vision is blurred from the speed with which you progress and your mind spins with the abundance of information and medical terminology being forced into your brain.

But each day you wake up, you find the strength for another day and you meet the newest challenge.  Beginning to lose your hair and taking control of the situation by buzzing it into a mohawk for the hell of it and then, down to nothing but your scalp.  Buying smaller belts and eventually, smaller clothes as your body whittles away (not complaining too much about that one) due to your complete inability to eat.  Summoning the strength to take a shower and then curling up in bed, still wet, exhausted and in pain.  Shivering to the point of convulsions through one of the mildest winters ever as you fight the cold sensitivity.  Crying (and throwing up) at the drop of a hat.  It is a battle and anyone who tells you different doesn’t know.  But I do, and I have the warrior scars to prove it.

But time heals all.  One year has passed.  Thanks to the glorious power of Mederma, the scars have lessened.  The hair is growing.   Color has returned to my skin.  My energy grows with each passing day.  And I can eat again.  I can look back and be grateful for the love I have in my life and for the very simple fact that I still have a life to live.  I plan to do so.  My gusto and zeal has only been fanned by the fire of the lessons learned this past year.

Life is short, friends, I can tell you that much!  The small stuff is certainly not worth stressing over – believe me, there are much bigger issues to deal with.  Instead, I’m focusing my attention and energy on the things that matter most, the things that make me happy.  And it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone here, but I like to cook.  I like to drink wine with my husband.  I like to entertain friends and laugh.  I like to gather around a table blessed full of food and be grateful for the family sitting around it looking back at me.  I’ll be doing much more celebrating in the days ahead.  A random Tuesday?  Why sure, that calls for a bottle of bubbly and our best glasses.  Take the china out of the cabinet and use it, even if it is only to eat take out fried chicken to go with that bubbly.  There’s never a better chance than right now.

 

lobster rolls with slow-fried french fries and old bay aioli

recipe:  jb’s pour house, bon appetit

 

Lobster Rolls:

1 carrot, diced

2 stalks celery

1 shallot, thinly sliced

4-5 sprigs of dill

2 lemons

1 c. white wine

4 c. water

4 – 4 oz. lobster tails

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/2 c. mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Hot dog buns

 

Combine carrot, 1 celery stalk (diced), shallot, and 1 sprig of dill in a large saucepan.  Cut 1 lemon in half, squeeze juice into saucepan and add juiced halves to the pot.  Add whine, water and Old Bay.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add lobster tails and return to a boil.  Boil lobsters for 1 minute per ounce.  Remove from heat and let sit for about 3 minutes.  Strain and let cool.

Once lobster has cooled enough to handle, remove meat from the shells.  Discard remaining solids.  Dice lobster into bite sized pieces.  Combine lobster, mayonnaise, and the juice of half a lemon.  Finely dice remaining celery stalk and add to the mixture.  Mince dill and add about 2 tsp. fresh dill to the mixture.  Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a microwave safe dish.  Brush the inside of hot dog buns with melted butter and broil until toasted to desired color.  Spoon about 1/3 c. lobster salad per roll.  Serve.

 

Slow-Fried French Fries

2 lb. russet potatoes

Canola oil

Salt

 

Peel  potatoes and cut into long french fry sticks.  I’d recommend using thicker cuts than what I show in the photo – about 3/8″ by 3/8″.  Rinse and shake of excess water.  Place in a large, deep stockpot and cover with oil (you will likely use all of a large bottle of oil plus some).

Place the pot over medium heat and cook for 45 minutes, occasionally scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula.  Be careful not to do this too often, or you will break your potatoes into many small pieces as I did.  Increase heat to medium high and cook until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer fries to paper towel lined plate to drain.  Season to taste.

 

Old Bay Aioli

1 egg yolk

1/4 – 1/2 c. canola or olive oil

1/2 c. canola oil

1/2 – 1 lemon

2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

 

Use a food processor or blender for  the best results.  Combine egg yolk and the juice of 1/2 lemon.  With the motor running, slowly stream in canola oil (you can use olive oil for a stronger taste).  The mixture will begin to thicken.  Stop motor, scrape down sides and add Old Bay seasoning.  Depending on thickness, continue to stream in oil until desired consistency is reached.  Taste and depending on preferences, add more lemon juice, oil, or seasoning.  Serve with fries.

 

Carpe diem!

– j

 

All contents and photographs © 2010 – 2012 jb’s pour house

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ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

They say girls like receiving flowers.  Turns out I like eating them.  Don’t worry, your flowers are safe.  I don’t go around and willy-nilly pick off a peony or snap a rose off of a shrub and munch away.  But if I see squash blossoms, zucchini flowers or whatever you choose to call them, guaranteed my heart will start to beat a little faster. 

My interest in floral consumption started several years ago when we were new homeowners.  You see, our former hometown had a huge, amazing farmer’s market each Saturday morning to which we would routinely ride our bikes.  I quickly learned that the trendy items that were quick to sell out early each weekend included bright orange squash blossoms.  A little internet browsing later, I found multiple delicious sounding recipes and soon enough, bunches of blossoms in hand, I was cooking.

Now this summer has been a bit crazy.  My dates with the weekend farmer’s market have been far less than regular.  Instead, trips along the long stretch of highway between Kansas City and Des Moines filled our weekends as a “Sold” sign appeared in our yard and boxes and packing tape began to fill the empty floor spaces inside our house.  Instead of hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks for the 4th, we hauled boxes and furniture under the relentless Midwestern sun.  It seems I’m also death to air conditioners this summer, with no fewer than six repairs and one new air conditioner under my belt between the two residences.  And you wonder why it has been a bit quiet here?

And so we closed the chapter on Des Moines and in this brief respite from moving (albeit not from the heat – thank goodness for a working AC!), I’ve found myself strolling in the morning sun, gazing across tables filled with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, berries, and wait – squash blossoms!  I beelined through the crowd, leaving B to apologize to the people I cut off or cut in front of as I made my way to the table and grasped my treasures.  In our new barbeque-centric hometown, it seemed only appropriate that we make this recipe first.

ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

recipe:  adapted from Bobby Flay

2 bunches of fresh squash blossoms (keep in water like regular flowers and refrigerate for up to 1 day – they are delicate)

1 1/2 c. ricotta

1/2 lb. best quality pulled pork (you can certainly smoke your own, but we usually buy from our favorite BBQ joint)

1/4 c. barbeque sauce

2 c. rice flour

2 c. ice water

Canola oil

1/3 c. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Snip squash blossoms from stems and place in a large bowl filled with cold water.  Gently swish around and let any dirt or debris fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove flowers and tip upside down to remove any excess water.  Peel off the sepals (long green leaves at the base of the flower) and gently open the flower petals.  Note: you may find a few little bugs, this is common as the flowers are typically open when picked and the bugs get trapped inside.  It is worth noting that I found a bee once, so do be careful (this was 1 out of hundreds of squash blossoms, so odds are you won’t find a bee).  Gently pull out the stamen and set the blossom on a towel to dry.  Don’t worry if you tear the flower slightly.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

As blossoms dry, combine ricotta, pulled pork and barbeque sauce in a medium bowl.  Season to taste and set aside.  Combine rice vinegar, Dijon, and honey in a small bowl.  Whisk thoroughly and begin slowly drizzling in olive oil.  Continue adding oil until mixture is emulsified.  Season lightly with salt but liberally with black pepper.  Taste and adjust to your preference.  Set aside.

To fill blossoms, gently push about 1 tsp. filling down to the base of the flower.  Continue to fill until you are nearly to the top of the flower where the petals start to flare out.  If you have torn the flower a bit, wrap the edges together to form a seal and lightly twist the tops of the petals together.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

Fill a large frying pan about halfway with canola oil and heat over medium high heat.  As oil is warming up, combine rice flour and cold water.  Stir well to combine.  Dip a blossom into the rice flour batter and place in hot oil.  Repeat with four or five other blossoms, depending on the size of your pan.  Fry for about 2 minutes per side and carefully remove from oil.  Stir rice flour batter again and repeat with four or five additional blossoms.  Repeat until all blossoms have been fried.

Serve immediately while hot with black pepper vinaigrette.

Stay cool friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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fried pickles with ranch creme fraiche

I’m officially declaring the summer of 2010 as the “Summer of the Pickle.”  Our Garden on Steroids has had a tendency to go overboard on just a few select items each year in the four summers we’ve put our green thumbs to the test.  Year one was tomatoes and basil (darn).  Year 2 was butternut squash – heavy on the vine production, not so heavy on the squash.  Year 3 was pattypan squash galore.  (Seriously.  Some were as big as B’s head.  I still have squash soup in the freezer.)  And this year, year 4, has been cucumbers, banana peppers and jalapenos galore.  Given I still have 2009 jalapeno poppers in the freezer, I had to find a new outlet for the garden gone mad.

And so, I dove into the world of home canning and in the process, trucked home gallons of vinegar, pounds of kosher salt, and boxes of mason jars from the grocery store.  From the cucumbers came quart upon quart of Dan Koshansky’s refrigerator pickles, Triple Dill pickles, and White Wine & Tarragon pickles.  I pickled banana peppers, because I’m obsessed with them.  Piles of jalapenos went for an unseeded (yikes!) swim in the brine to produce hellfire hot pepper slices for spicy platters of nachos throughout the winter.  And last but not least, I pickled green tomatoes – I just couldn’t make FGTs fast enough!

As I gazed across my 18 quarts (yes, I said 18) of pickled cucumbers, I realized we don’t eat enough burgers, tenderloins, or sandwiches to move through the pickles fast enough.  Something had to be done.  Something using a lot of pickles needed to be made, and quickly.  Given I’m still desperately trying to hold on to the days of summer now painfully behind me given the rate at which the leaves are falling, I decided to bust out a little State Fair action.  Yup, you guessed it.  I fried the pickles (placing on a stick is completely optional).

And in true JB fashion, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  I couldn’t just fry up some pickles and call it good.  Oh no.  I had to pickle my own cucumbers, bread in crunchy panko bread crumbs, and make my own crème fraiche for the base of my dipping sauce.  In a complete non-J move, I decided to go with a packet of Hidden Valley ranch seasoning to add to the crème fraiche.  Heed my warnings here – this stuff is salty.  I’d recommend leaving the salt shaker where it is on the counter because between the pickles and the dip, you won’t be lacking.

As I listened to the squirrels crunch around in the fallen leaves outside as we crunched on our pickles, I glanced at the counter to happily see an empty mason jar.  One down, 17 to go…

fried pickles with ranch crème fraiche

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. heavy cream

2 Tbsp. buttermilk

1 quart Dan Koshansky’s refrigerator pickles (Claussen pickles would be a good substitute)

1/2 c. flour

2 eggs, beaten

2 c. panko

½ pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix

Canola oil

Combine cream and buttermilk in a sealable jar.  Leave on the counter for 24 hours.  Stir, and if not thickened completely, leave for another 24 hours.  Once thickened, place in refrigerator and use within a week.

Combine crème fraiche and half of Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix.  Set aside.

Drain pickles from brine and blot with paper towels to dry.  Working in small batches, dredge pickle slices in flour, then egg, shaking off excess,  Coat thoroughly with panko and set aside.  Repeat with remaining pickles.

Place canola oil in a wok or large stockpot, filling about 1/3 of the way up the side of pan.  Heat over medium high heat until temperature reaches 375 degrees.  Place 6-8 pickle slices carefully in oil and fry 1-2 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove pickles from oil using a long handled slotted spoon, spider or mesh strainer.  Repeat with remaining pickles.

Serve hot with dipping sauce.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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butter burgers with spotted cow battered cheese curds

note:  this is the second of a three-part series chronicling a recent romp around Green County in southwestern Wisconsin, aka “Baja Wisconsin” to my family

The gravel lot was filled with cars haphazardly parked.  Flicks of the dairy cattle’s tails waved with the breeze as they happily munched their breakfast in the sun after a long night of rain. The hills, more sparkling green after the night’s storm, rolled across the countryside.  Two older men in faded denim and mesh John Deere caps flagged us to a waiting spot.  Inside the fans hummed as the employees bustled about filling orders for waiting patrons in the small, closet-like space.

“The Curd is the Word.”

T-shirts boasted the Decatur Dairy’s slogan as they danced in the breeze above row after row of bags filled with cheese curds.  Muenster, Cheddar, Bleu Cheese, Buffalo, Garlic & Herb, Peppercorn Ranch, Wasabi, and on and on the labels read.  Those in the know head to the dairy early to snatch up the freshest cheese curds – ones that squeak so loudly against your teeth you’d swear your companions could hear the symphony of squeaks muffled in your mouth.  As hand cut wedges of cheese and bags of curds piled up against the counter, the cash register ticked along happily as the order total grew.  Outside, we sat on the concrete against the stainless tanks filled high with fresh milk and munched on our treasures.  Ah, a Wisconsin breakfast.

Bags of differing flavors were opened in the morning sun and we stretched and reached across one another, dipping our hands into the bags being offered to sample the noisy chunks of cheese.  Heads nodded, accompanied by approvals of “yum” in between squeaky bites.  Recipe ideas were tossed out as suggestions for savoring the cheesy bites.  “Fried cheese curds,” someone said.

“Spotted Cow fried cheese curds!” I shouted, raising my arms in victory to the exclamations and grumbling stomach noises that met my proclamation.  As the bags were sealed and stored away and the cars were packed with the morning’s treasures, I pondered my idea further and wondered how I could take the cheese curds to the next level of awesomeness.

Our travels around the country continued (see part 1) and by mid afternoon, we had made it to our final stop in New Glarus.  After only a few quick minutes in the main shopping district in town, new shopping bags had joined the growing collection and were filled with sausages, smoked wieners, pastries, breads, fudge and a new cooler given those in the waiting cars were already filled to the brim.  We steered away from town and headed up the hill to the waiting New Glarus Brewing Company.

The new hilltop facility bustled with activity as happy patrons milled around the gift shop, sampled brews in the brewhall or across the emerald lawn, and rang up their purchases in the well-stocked beer depot below the brewery.  New Glarus is famous for their Spotted Cow – a fruity Wisconsin farmhouse ale and a perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer day.  Spotted Cow is disappointingly NOT available outside of the state of Wisconsin (as is the case with all New Glarus brews).  *boo*

That being said, it was 3:23 when we rolled into the bustling lot and with the brewery closing at 4:00, I had work to do.  Wristbands containing sampling tickets were quickly purchased and as we stood in line in the brewhall, I contemplated which of the brews to try first.  The clean white tap handles announced the names of the beers available to sample:  Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel, Moon Man, Totally Naked, Golden Ale, Stone Soup and Wisconsin Belgian Red.  We sipped and sampled our way through our allotment and watched as the clouds rolled in overhead.  Fearing either rain, the beer depot closing or both, we downed the last of our samples and headed into the store to buy up our treasures before the registers stopped chiming for the day.

As we drove off from the brewery, bottles tinkling happily in the back, the idea of the Spotted Cow fried cheese curds again came to mind.  They’d be great on their own, no doubt about that.  A zippy little dipping sauce and we’d have a happy snack (plus a mandatory trip to the gym).  But I needed something that screamed “Wisconsin!!”  Visions of double smoked bacon and fresh brats from the butcher danced in front of me.  No, that wasn’t it…  And suddenly, I knew.  It must be a butter burger with Spotted Cow curds.  The butter burger (now most frequently recognized as a Culver’s menu staple) originated in Wisconsin.  What better way to pay homage to the beer and cheese gods than with a burger topped with butter and beer battered cheese curds?!  Cardiologist needed, stat!

It’d be fairly easy to overwhelm with this burger, so I opted for simplicity when it came to the patty itself.  A little Worcestershire, a dash or two of a mesquite seasoning, and a light crust of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder were all I dared to add.  Knowing this baby was destined for a pat of butter and a crown of fried cheese, what more do you really need?  We sliced up a few tomatoes and a red onion for a little freshness and flavor and opted for the basic fixin’s of ketchup and mustard.  Writing this now, I’m disappointed that I didn’t put a pickle on mine, as the brininess of the pickle would have helped to cut a little of the weight of the curds.  I’ll let you make the call regarding pickles, but the burger as I made it had just the right amount of condiments.  They contributed to the overall flavor without drowning out the beer battered curds.

A word to the wise regarding the curds – hot and fast is the way to go.  A candy thermometer is a must-have.  You want your oil temperature to be about 375 degrees – hot enough to fry the outside quickly without damaging the delicate shell keeping all of the oozy, melty cheese at bay.  I wanted a lighter batter, so I opted for a tempura batter with equal parts rice flour and beer.  As the cheese from my first curd oozed out of the batter into my hot oil, I found one coating wasn’t enough to contain the molten cheese.  I quickly dipped the curds back into rice flour and dropped them back into the beer batter for a double coat and was happy with the results.  The cheese stayed within the shell and the resulting batter still had the lighter crust I was after. 

Now, if only I knew what to do with the rest of those cheese curds…

butter burgers with spotted cow battered cheese curds

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1 lb. 85% lean ground beef

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tsp. mesquite seasoning

Garlic powder

Onion Powder

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Hamburger buns

Canola oil

1 lb. cheddar cheese curds

1/2 c. plus 1/4 c. rice flour

1/2 c. Spotted Cow beer

Unsalted butter

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced

Condiments of choice

Preheat a grill to medium high.  Combine ground beef and Worcestershire sauce in a medium mixing bowl.  Form beef into four patties.  Sprinkle with a light dusting of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Flip burgers over and repeat on opposite side.

Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side.

As burgers are grilling, fill a large wok, stockpot, or other deep pan about 1/4 full of canola oil.  Using a candy thermometer, bring oil to 350 degrees.  Combine cheddar curds and 1/4 rice flour in a small bowl.  Toss to coat.  Combine remaining rice flour and Spotted Cow in a medium bowl.  Stir until flour is thoroughly incorporated.  Dunk curds in batter, then coat again with rice flour (adding more flour as needed).  Repeat with all curds.  Once curds are coated in rice flour, dunk 4-5 at a time back into batter and carefully add to hot oil.  Fry 2-3 minutes, watching closely to ensure cheese doesn’t seep out.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Repeat with remaining curds.  Curds can be prepared in advance and placed on a baking sheet and kept warm in a 200 degree oven for up to 15-20 minutes.

Remove burgers from grill and top with a pat of butter.  Transfer the burgers to the buns. Top each burger with cheese curds, onion, tomato and condiments, as desired.

Uff da!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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steak milanese

It is hot.  And sticky.  And buggy.  I’m sufficiently covered with mosquito bites now that we’re mid-summer (thanks for all of the help, bug spray!) and finally, the garden is off and running.  Chartreuse banana peppers and emerald jalapeno peppers dangle from their perches, little cornichon cucumbers dance along their trellis, tiny jewels of baby eggplant have emerged from lilac blooms, slender green beans twirl along the poles, and green globes sparkle in the sun along the many tomato plants.  I love summer.  And I’m impatient.

It is always this time of year when summer is most certainly in full swing, yet we are still waiting for the fruits of our spring labor to come to dinner, and I begin to get antsy.  I’m ready for Caprese salad!  Grilled Eggplant Parmesan!  Cucumber martinis (mmm hmmm, refreshing)!  Panzanella salad!  Yikes, better stop, I’m getting awfully hungry.  Guess I shouldn’t have skipped lunch today…  Lucky for me, there’s a cure.  Cherry tomatoes, here to save the day!

Just when I think I can’t make it any longer and I’m going to have to pluck a few of those green ‘maters from their vines (for some FGTs) because I simply cannot wait for fresh garden goodness, I remember the cherry tomatoes.  Careful not to talk with your mouth full when munching on these babies, or you are likely to squirt those within shooting distance!  Cherry tomatoes are plump, juicy, sweet, and best of all, they taste like tomatoes.  Gone are the days of mealy grocery store tomatoes, banished for the next several months until insane cravings strike once again for a taste of summer when the evil four-letter “s” word (no, silly, snow) dominates daily life.  No, friend, it is time for real tomatoes once again!  Real tomatoes mean real flavor, and the additional fixin’s for this topping pack a real punch.  Briny kalamata olives, fresh basil, creamy gorgonzola cheese, and shallots ensure that this salsa-of-sorts makes your mouth take notice.  But what to serve it with?

Being the good wife that I am, one day I went in search of a recipe for one of the hub’s favorite recipes – chicken fried steak.  I guess I’m technically still looking for that recipe, because I found something similar to this and, um, got distracted.  It is still chicken fried steak, but rather than a creamy gravy as an accompaniment, I fell for this bright, briny, salty, yummy topping instead.  I think you will too.

steak milanese

recipe:  jb’s pour house

12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)

2 1/2 Tbsp. finely minced shallot

2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh basil

1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives, halved

2 oz. gorgonzola cheese

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tenderized cube steaks, 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick

1 1/2 c. flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 c. panko

Canola oil

Combine tomatoes, shallot, basil, kalamata olives, gorgonzola, olive oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Season steaks lightly with salt and pepper.  One steak at a time, dredge in flour, dip into egg, and coat thoroughly with panko.  Set aside and repeat with remaining steaks.  Pour enough canola oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan.  Heat over medium high heat and when oil begins to shimmer, fry two steaks at a time, about 4 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining steaks.

Serve warm with plenty of the cherry tomato topping.

Hooray for tomatoes!

-j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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fried green tomatoes

Hello, gorgeous (channel Streisand here).

I am seriously in love with Fried Green Tomatoes, or FGTs as we call them in our house.  So much so, in fact, that I very audibly gasped when I spotted a box full of green tomatoes as we walked through a very chilly (44 degrees!) Farmer’s Market on a recent Saturday morning.  I promptly ran to the ATM, as I had already burned through what little cash I had on hand, and snatched up a few ripe specimens.  Well, technically, they are unripe specimens, but you know where I’m going here.

My first introduction to FGTs came in a manner that is probably similar to how many of you came to know of them – via the movie.  TOWANDA!!!  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  Then, on a family vacation to Savannah when I was 12, a vendor was selling the real deal along River Street.  The fam wasn’t too excited about them, but I loved them.  My parents should have been afraid, very afraid, of the young budding obsession for all things food that seemed to start to unfurl that day.  Like I said, no one else was too keen on them, so I happily munched away.   

A few years went by and when I saw volumes of green tomatoes left hanging on my parents’ tomato vines as the autumn chill started to set in, I immediately thought of FGTs.  Through the magic of the internet, I was able to search (Google wasn’t part of the common vernacular back then) for a recipe and turned up one that proclaimed itself to be the original recipe of the Whistle Stop Café made famous by the film. 

“I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”

I’ve made hundreds, maybe even thousands, of FGTs in the years since.  (If you think I’m kidding or exaggerating, I actually went to the hospital after a major FGT fest last summer with an acute acid reflux attack.  I really like them.)  Over time, the original measurements and preparation instructions began to fade from memory and I developed my own style of making these.  They may not be true to the Whistle Stop, but they are a definitive part of our summer cuisine.  FGTs are one of the first things I make when the tomato crops start popping up mid-spring and they are among the last things I make as we close out another summer and usher in fall.

The perfect tomato is Granny Smith green, with just a hint of a rose blush.  Sliced thickly, the tomatoes then soak in a buttermilk, garlic and hot sauce bath.  Once fried, the crisp crunch of the cornmeal coating against the slightly softened tomato creates an amazing contrast.  Drizzled with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice and several dashes of your favorite hot sauce, they are perfect as an appetizer, a side dish or your whole meal.  Well, maybe not that last part unless you’ve got some Prilosec handy…

fried green tomatoes

recipe:  jb’s pour house

4-5 baseball sized (or larger!) green tomatoes

2 c. buttermilk

3-4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 ½ c. yellow cornmeal

¾ c. all-purpose flour

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Canola oil

Lemon, cut into wedges

Hot sauce (recommended:  Frank’s Red Hot)

Remove core from tomatoes and slice into ¼” to ½” rounds.  Place a large resealable plastic bag into a mixing bowl.  Place tomato slices, buttermilk, garlic cloves, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, and several dashes of hot sauce into bag.  Seal, mix together, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 ½ hours.

Pour enough canola oil into a large skillet to measure approximately ½” up the side of the pan.  Turn heat to medium high.  Remove tomatoes from refrigerator.  In another plastic bag, combine cornmeal, flour, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Mix to combine.  Remove tomato slices from buttermilk and gently shake to remove excess liquid.  Add about 4-5 tomato slices to cornmeal mixture at a time.  Seal bag and shake to thoroughly coat tomato slices.  Carefully add to hot oil and fry, about 4-5 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Remove to a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet and season lightly with salt.  Repeat with remaining tomato slices, adding additional canola oil if needed.

Serve warm with lemon wedges and hot sauce.

Enjoy a little taste of the South and one of my all-time favorite foods!

– j

 All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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fried green beans with meyer lemon aioli

I hated vegetables as a kid.  In fact, it was only recently, now that I’m nearly 30 years old, that I finally admitted to my parents what my secret strategies had been.  I’d chew and chew until whatever offending vile veggie had been pulverized to the point that I could discreetly place the cud inside my cheek and excuse myself to the bathroom to flush the fowl pulp to the sewers.  A dinner roll or baked potato also were excellent hiding places – eat out the center, place as many vegetables as possible into the cavity, pinch closed, sigh loudly, and declare “I’m full.”  Unluckily for my sisters and me, the family dog wasn’t too keen on the veggies either – she was much more interested in our steak – so she failed as yet another method of dodging out on my daily dose of vitamins.

Time changes many things – but a delicate batter fried golden brown and a rich homemade mayonnaise spiked with the herbal-honeyed juice of a meyer lemon don’t hurt, either.  I admit, I’m late to jump on the fried green bean bandwagon.  It never really tripped my trigger.  But then, I stumbled across this recipe, saw the meyer lemon, and figured it was about time I try this on for size.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for aioli.

With this admission comes a huge mea culpa to my grandma.  For years she sang the praises of french fries with mayonnaise, to which I wrinkled up my nose (yes, I’m getting real wrinkles there now) and declared it disgusting.  Grandma, I’m sorry.  You were so, so right.  However, I must insist that it be real mayonnaise, not the store-bought brand.  A food processor, an egg, vinegar and some oil and ooh baby, we’re in business.  And when you throw meyer lemon zest and juice into the mix, those veggies aren’t looking so bad after all!

fried green beans with meyer lemon aioli

recipe:  adapted from Loretta Keller of San Francisco’s Coco500

1 large egg yolk (Can use pasterized if you are sensitive about eating raw eggs.  I’m not.  Bring it, Rocky!)

1 Tbsp. champagne or white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

1 c. canola oil (maximum – you may not need this full amount)

2 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced

Salt, to taste

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 c. cold club soda

1 c. rice flour

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 lb. green beans, trimmed

Canola oil

 

In a small food processor, combine egg yolk, champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, and garlic clove.  Pulse until combined and garlic is finely chopped.  With the food processor running, slowly stream in canola oil.  Continue to pour very slowly until mixture has thickened and tripled to quadrupled in volume.  Add Meyer lemon zest and juice.  Process until fully combined.  Season to taste with salt.  Add cayenne and set aside.  If making ahead, refrigerate and let come to room temperature for about 20 minutes prior to serving.

Fill a large stockpot or wok halfway with oil.  Place on medium high heat until temperature reaches 350 degrees.  Combine club soda and rice flour in a medium mixing bowl.  Once flour is fully incorporated, add balsamic vinegar and mix well.  Add green beans, about one handful at a time, and toss with hands or tongs until beans are fully coated.  Using tongs, place about 8-10 green beans in hot oil.  Fry about 4 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet and season to taste.  Repeat with remaining green beans.

Serve immediately with Meyer lemon aioli.

Sometimes, you want a little extra crunch.  While I preferred the recipe in its original form above, b preferred the extra crispy version.  To do this, after dipping the beans in the rice flour/club soda batter, dredge in panko and repeat as directed above.  Crunch away!

 

Hope this has taught your kids a few new tricks on how to hide their veggies and has provided you with a new way to enjoy them!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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