Monday, August 16, 2010

Meatless Monday - Chef Inspired

Dave and I returned last night from our first weekend out of town without the kids. We were a whopping seven hours away in Birmingham visiting cousin and fellow foodie, Will.

We arrived at Will's house Friday evening and made a beeline to Chez Fonfon, a French-inspired bistro owned by our good friend, Frank Stitt.

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Really, we have admired Frank from afar as one of our favorite cookbook authors and icon chefs, but he wasn't our friend. Until Friday night when I charmed him at the bar. Believe me? Only Frank and I know the truth.

We are saving our pennies to eat at his adjacent restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill. That will motivate us even more to return to the straight-out-of Southern Living town.

The food at Chez Fonfon is pretty casual, but very chic. My dessert was my favorite part of the meal. It was a chocolate pot de creme that came in a cute little ramekin but should have come in a much larger bucket. My appetite for sweets is insatiable!

My appetizer was a classic fried green tomatoes with a very strong supporting cast of arugula, goat cheese, avocado and tomatoes. I found the recipe in my good buddy's cookbook and will share it with you for Meatless Monday. I made a few changes to the recipe to reflect the way I enjoyed it this weekend.

Fried Green Tomato and Arugula Salad

1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
3 very firm green tomatoes, cut into 1/3 inch slices
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
2 cups oil for frying (corn, peanut, or canola)
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
12 grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 large bunch arugula
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 avocado, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 log goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Lightly beat the egg in a shallow bowl and stir in the buttermilk. Place the tomato slices in the buttermilk mixture, turning to coat. In a shallow pan, combine the cornmeal and flour and season with 1tsp salt, the pepper and the cayenne, stirring well.
In a large cast iron or other heavy skillet, heat the peanut oil over high heat to 360 degrees.
Meanwhile, dredge one tomato slice at a time in the cornmeal, turning to coat and gently pressing into the cornmeal so it adheres. Transfer each prepared slice to a rack set over a baking sheet.
Using tongs, carefully ease the breaded tomatoes into the hot oil in batches of about 4 at a time so that the oil does not cool down. Cook for about 2 minutes, then turn and cook on the other side until the coating is a nice even golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and put them in the oven to keep warm while to fry the remaining slices.
Ladle or spoon 2Tbs vinaigrette onto each plate. Stack the fried tomato slices on the plate, with a 1/2 Tbs of goat cheese between each slice. Toss the cherry tomatoes, avocado, and arugula with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the mixture on the plate.

This is definitely satisfying for dinner, especially if you serve it with pot de creme! And if you have a recipe for that, let me know because Frank and I are not close enough yet for him to share those secrets!

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