Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fried Green Tomato and BBQ Tempeh Stacks with Bourbon Whipped Sweet Potatoes

I apologize for not being more timely with blogging these recipes. Last week I had the great pleasure of going to Cincinnati for my nephew/godson's baptism. I had a wonderful time with my family, and was pretty much technology free for a few days. I admire bloggers who schedule posts when they'll be away, or even work on their blog while on vacation, but it's not for me. I like to take the time away and really disconnect. 

This was the third course in my Bourbon Dinner a few weeks ago, and it was something that I put the most thought into. I wanted to make a substantial entrée, but it had to be vegetarian, semi-fancy, and Bourbon friendly, of course. While thinking about Kentucky and flavors of the south, I remembered the Fried Green Tomatoes I recently had at a restaurant, which were delicious. I thought it would be fun to stack them with a protein. Barbecue is obviously a southern favorite, and I've found that of all the vegetarian proteins out there, tempeh seems to be the best for grilling and pairing with bbq sauce. Finally I wanted a starchy base for the stack. Since the tomatoes had tang, the tempeh was salty and earthy, a creamy sweet potato puree was the perfect balance, especially laced with Bourbon as it often is at Thanksgiving. The dish came together with a sprinkle of blue cheese and parsley, and was absolutely delicious! 

Fried Green Tomato and BBQ Tempeh Stacks with Bourbon Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Bourbon Whipped Sweet Potatoes:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
1/3 c. whole milk or cream
1/4 c. Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
1 tbsp. molasses
2 tbsp. salted butter

Place potatoes in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil covered, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, or until fork tender. 
Drain, pour Bourbon into the hot pot, then add potatoes and cream.
Mash or use a hand mixer to whip until potatoes begin to create a smooth appearance.
Add cayenne, salt, molasses and butter, continue to whip until incorporated.
Taste and adjust seasonings, serve or keep warm covered in a 200* oven, whipping in more milk or cream if necessary when serving. 

Fried Green Tomatoes:
3 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick 
1 c. plus 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1 c. cornmeal
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper
Oil, for frying (I used olive oil)

Arrange 3 shallow dishes on a counter.
Add 1 c. flour to first.
Mix eggs with milk in the second.
Toss 1/2 c. flour with cornmeal, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper in the last.
Heat oil over medium in a skillet about 1/2" up the side. 
Arrange paper towels on a plate or a dripping rack next to frying pan. 
Dredge tomato slices in flour, then dip in egg, then coat in cornmeal and place in the frying pan. 
Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown.
Place on paper towels to drain, continue with remaining tomato slices. 
Serve or keep warm in a 200* oven on a wire rack nestled in a baking sheet. 

BBQ Tempeh:
1/2 batch of Bourbon BBQ Sauce (I halved this recipe)
2 8 oz. packages of plain or original tempeh

Slice tempeh into 1/4" slices, then place in a tupperware storage container.
Pour 1-2 c. bbq sauce over tempeh, toss to coat.
Marinade for 30 minutes to 4 hours. 
Heat a gas grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. 
Place strips of tempeh on grill, cook until grill marks appear and bbq sauce begins to caramelize, basting as necessary. 
Grill all tempeh, then serve or keep warm in a 200* oven, tossing with extra warmed sauce if necessary before serving.

To make stacks:
Take 1/4 of the sweet potato mixture, form into a mound then use the back of a spatula or spoon to smear onto the plate. 
Arrange a tomato at the base of the sweet potatoes, then stack 2 slices of tempeh on top.
Place another tomato on top of tempeh, then place 2 more strips going the opposite direction of the first.
Top with one final tomato.
Sprinkle plate with parsley and blue cheese.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Southern Salad with Bourbon-Pecan-Maple Vinaigrette

Last year for Memorial Day, my husband and I went to The Biltmore Estate for the long weekend. I had been once before, but with my parents, and I was underage. If you're not familiar with the Biltmore Estate, it's a sprawling mansion in Asheville, NC with beautiful gardens, a touristy village, and a winery with dozens of wine for sampling. While we were there, we ate at the Stable Cafe, a restaurant in the small village just outside the actual house (there's also Antler Village, a larger area near the winery). The Stable Cafe is just that, the horse barn and stables. It was completely renovated and each stable is now booth seating. The cuisine is Southern Bistro style, and everything we had was absolutely delicious. My entrée was the Southern Salad, a bed of bibb lettuce with several toppings. 

When I was brainstorming this meal, I couldn't get the Southern Salad out of my mind, but changed it a bit to suit my preferences. First, I replaced the housemade Blue Cheese dressing with a Bourbon infused vinaigrette. I chose Evan Williams because it has maple and brown sugar notes, and pairs well with pecans. For the salad, I used the Biltmore's idea and went with fried okra instead of a crouton. 

Southern Salad with Bourbon-Pecan-Maple Vinaigrette
adapted from this dressing recipe by Jim Beam

1 tbsp. plus 1/2 c. EVOO
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c. Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1/4 c. Cider Vinegar
2 tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 c. toasted pecans, finely chopped

8 c. Bibb lettuce leaves, torn
1/2 pint Heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
4 hardboiled eggs, quartered
1 c. prepared fried okra nuggets
Optional additions: Cubed cheese (Havarti, Muenster), Shaved or Shredded Chicken or Ham 

Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add 1 tbsp. EVOO, shallot and garlic, saute' for 2 minutes, until fragrant. 
Add bourbon, and reduce until it forms a thick glaze, about 80-90% of the liquid has cooked off. 
Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
When bourbon mixture is at room temperature, add vinegar, maple syrup and mustard, whisk to combine.
In a slow stream, whisk in the EVOO until it emulsifies, about 1/4-1/3 c.
Taste and adjust seasonings, add more EVOO if desired.
Just before serving, toast pecans, chop and add to dressing.
Arrange salad elements, drizzle with 1/4 of the vinaigrette, serve the remainder on the side.