Sunday. I am all alone in my house for the whole day. This doesn’t happen very often. When my eyes popped open this morning all I could think about was what I was going to cook. All by myself in the kitchen. Nobody interrupting me. No loud music blaring. No UFC match yelling and cheering. Nobody playing the grand piano. Just silence. What a relief.
So I decided to make the one recipe that has been beguiling me for about two weeks. The one I could hardly wait to cook. The one that has several parts cooked separately and melded together at the end. The one with interesting ingredients and unusual combinations. The one that would probably take me all day to cook and shoot. Just my kind of recipe.
I first saw this recipe in the September 2013 issue of Food Network Magazine. It comes from Chef Jose Garces, an Ecuadorian American chef, restaurant owner and Iron Chef, who opened his first restaurant, Amada, an Andalusian tapas bar, in 2005. He now has over a dozen restaurants in Philadelphia, Chicago, Scottsdale, Palm Springs and Atlantic City. The one you have probably heard of is Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago. He has written two cookbooks, which I am now going to rush out and acquire, and was named Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic region in 2009 by the James Beard Foundation. Read more about him and look at the photos of his food. Oh my.
The two restaurants closest to me here in Los Angeles are in Palm Springs. Distrito, featuring the cuisine of Mexico City, and Tinto with dishes from Spain’s Basque country, are both in The Saguaro Hotel. Guess where I’m staying the next time I’m in PS?
I love this recipe for so many reasons. First of all, this is the first time I have seen breaded and fried tomatillos. That set my imagination galloping right off the bat. Then the vinaigrette, with little bits of browned ham, apple cider vinegar and honey, punched up with shallot, parsley, green onion and rosemary, and raw Gala apple batons. It has everything – salty, sweet and sour, crunchy and herby. OMG. Then the aioli, with lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro and garlic whizzed up with egg yolk and olive oil into a mouthwatering sauce. Put these all together on one plate and it is show stopping. Just imagine it. Now go make it. Your taste buds will be cheering you.
Fried Tomatillo Wedges with Apple Ham Vinaigrette & Cilantro Lime Aioli
Cilantro Lime Aioli
1 cup cilantro, rough chop
1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, sliced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup olive oil
1. Place all ingredients, except olive oil, in a small processor. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil through top holes and process until thickened. Cover and hold at room temperature if using within 1 hour. Otherwise, refrigerate covered until 1 hour before service.
Note: Aioli may be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated.
For Apple Ham Topping:
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup ham steak, chopped in ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced green onion
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds black pepper
½ large Gala apple, or ¾ small, cut into matchsticks
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add ham and cook, stirring frequently, until starting to brown. If heat is too high, the ham pieces will pop out of skillet, so you may need to turn down heat. When ham is browned, remove skillet from heat.
2. To skillet, add vinegar, honey, shallot, parsley, green onion, rosemary, salt and pepper.Toss ingredients and set aside. (Note: the apple will be jullienned just before service.)
For the Fried Tomatillo Wedges
4 medium tomatillos (2 ½-inch diam.), husked, rinsed, halved and each half cut into 3 wedges
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 ½ teaspoons powdered mustard (such as Coleman’s)
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1. In a medium bowl, place tomatillo wedges in buttermilk to coat thoroughly. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, parsley, mustard powder, garlic powder, turmeric, salt and pepper.
3. In a large pot, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees F.
4. To test oil temperature, remove 1 tomatillo wedge from buttermilk, letting excess drip off. Place in flour mixture and scoop flour over wedge, turning to coat. Place coated wedge in hot oil and fry until golden brown. If it browns in less than 1 minute, the oil is too hot and the tomatillo will not be cooked through. Lower heat until it takes 1 to 1 ½ minutes to brown.
5. Cook all tomatillo wedges and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.
1. Cut the apple into ¼-inch batons and add to ham vinaigrette. Toss to coat thoroughly.
2. On each plate, pour 1-2 tablespoons cilantro aioli per tomatillo wedge in the middle or on one side. Place tomatillo wedges in the center and on side opposite from aioli. Top with Apple Ham Vinaigrette down center of plate and over wedges. Distribute the vinegar liquid and ham evenly between plates. Make it pretty. Happily devour.