Friday, August 19, 2016

Smoked Avocado Toast with Herbed Crab Salad, Bacon Fat Fried Sourdough, + Citrus Caviar

Okay, I've finally jumped on the avocado toast bandwagon (#avotoast). I will be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of avocado to begin with. I always found their mushy texture and lack of flavor to be less than appealing... even though I do love me some guacamole. So, when I saw recipe after recipe of pieces of bread topped with nothing besides avocado, I normally just skipped over them and didn't think anything else about it. But my Mountain Man is a lover of avocado and begged me to make them for him. As with most of my recipes that involve bread, I always have to fry them in some kind of fat or oil, this time I chose bacon fat... because we all know I keep a jar handy in the fridge. I love the smokey flavor and the richness that the bacon fat lends. But, if you aren't a crazy person like me (who keeps bacon fat in a jar), then any oil will be fine here. The toast should be beautifully golden brown, saturated in yummy fat, and perfectly crisp. After you have fried the slices of bread, make sure to give them a rub-a-dub-dub with a big ole' clove of garlic while they are still warm. Now here is the fun part... the smoking of the avocado (and y'all it's so damn easy)! Essentially, all you have to do is get a large dutch oven and place a small bowl upside down in the center. Scatter your choice of flavored wood chips around the bowl, no need for soaking them in water, and turn up the heat to high. While you wait for the chips to start smoking, scoop out your avocado into another small bowl and dress them with fresh lime juice and zest, as well as some fleur de sel. If you want more smokiness to your avocado, then I suggest you slightly smash them, if you want a tame smoke flavor, just leave them in halves. Next, all you have to do is put the bowl of avocado on top of the overturned bowl in the dutch oven (with the chips smoking away), and cover the pot. Smoke the avocado for 5 minutes... any more and it might be overkill. While the avocado is smoking, it's time to quickly whip up your herbed crab salad. This is easy-peasy. In a medium mixing bowl, add the in the jumbo lump crab meat, homemade aioli, dijon mustard, fish sauce caramel, lemon juice + zest, red pepper flakes, minced garlic + shallots, and fresh herbs. If you can't find/make fish sauce caramel, a white balsamic reduction or honey would be a good substitute. As gently as possible, fold together the lump crab meat with the herbed aioli until the crab is completely coated, but still has a few big pieces of meat. Now your bacon fat fried toast, herbed crab salad, + smoked avocado are all ready to be assembled into amazing avotoast. I'm a little coo-coo, in that I had Finger Limes shipped to me from California... specifically for this recipe. Finger limes are so interesting because we you slice them open, a citrus caviar comes out, as opposed to pulp and seeds. If you can, order some, they are so fun, and can be used in a million different ways. But, the toast is just as good with some lime zest + freshly squeezed lime juice on top, so don't worry about it if you can't wait to make this. This smoked avocado toast is so good that we've made it for the past three weeks. I believe I'm now an avocado toast lover... who would've ever thought? Enjoy :)
smoking the avocado
bacon fat fried toast
bacon fat fried toast + smoked avocado slices
all of the components for the herbed crab salad
it's hard to resist it, but save it for the toast

see the citrus caviar from the finger limes on top?

citrus. caviar.
For the Herbed Crab Salad:
8oz Jumbo Lump Crab Meat
3-4T Homemade Aioli
1t Dijon Mustard
1T Fish Sauce Caramel
1 Lemon, Zested (plus the juice from half of that lemon)
1-2t Red Pepper Flakes (or depending on how spicy you want it)
1 Small Shallot, Finely Minced
1 Clove of Garlic, Finely Minced (into a paste)
½t Fresh Cracked Pepper + ¼t Kosher Salt
1T Fresh Snipped Chives (plus a little extra for garnishing)
1t Fresh Tarragon, Basil, + Parsley, Finely Minced (plus a little extra for garnishing)

For the Smoked Avocado: 

2-3 Avocados
1 Lime, Zested + Juiced
Pinch of Kosher Salt

For the Smoked Avocado-Crab Toast:
Prepared Herbed Crab Salad, Chilled
Smoked Avocado, Lightly Mashed or Gently Sliced
4 Slices of Sourdough, Fried in Bacon Fat (or any other oil can be substituted)
1 Large Clove of Garlic
Citrus Caviar (finger limes) or Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
Mixed Herbs, For Garnishing

1. For the Herbed Crab Salad: In a mixing bowl, put in all of the ingredients of the herbed crab salad. Gently fold these together until the crab is coated in the herb-aioli mixture. Do not mix too hard because you want to maintain as much of the “lump crab” pieces as possible. Now, taste and season with salt and pepper, if it is needed. Refrigerate this crab salad until you are ready to assemble the toasts.
2. For the Smoked Avocado: Line a Dutch oven (or any heavy bottomed pot with a lid) with foil to keep your pot from burning. Place a small metal bowl upside down in the middle of the Dutch oven. This will help prop everything up. Then, scatter about 2C of wood chips around the small metal bowl. We used mesquite wood chips, but any kind will work (hickory, apple, etc.), and there’s no need to soak these either! Turn up the heat to medium-high and wait for the chips to start smoking, it can take anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, while you’re waiting for the wood chips to smoke, it’s time to get to avocados ready to be smoked by halving, pitting, and peeling them. Put the avocado halves into another small bowl and zest + juice a lime over the top. If you want sliced avocado for your toast, leave the halves untouched. These will be slightly less smoky. If you love a smoky flavor, lightly smash the avocado, which gives more surface area for the smoke to infuse into. Once the chips are smoking, place the bowl of avocados on top of the upside down bowl in the pot. Top the Dutch oven with a lid and set your timer for 5 minutes (any more time than that, it’ll be way too smoky). After the time is up, remove the smoked avocado, season with some fleur de sel, and place in the fridge to chill.
3. Assembling the Toast: Grab your perfectly browned bacon fat fried toasts and rub the surface with the clove of garlic. Top each of the slices with some of your chilled smoked avocado and season with a pinch of salt. Spoon a mound of the herbed crab salad on top of the creamy avocado. Scatter the citrus caviar evenly over the crab mixture. If you can’t find finger limes, some lime zest and lime juice will do just fine! Garnish with the leftover mixed herbs for presentation.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Farmer's Market Finds: The Best Damn Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich with Crispy Prosciutto, Peppery Arugula, Soft Herbs, + Sriracha Powder on Buttered White Bread

As long as I can remember, I have never liked deviled eggs or egg salad sandwiches. However, that was all changed when we went to our favorite restaurant, JCT Kitchen, and we ordered some of their famous deviled eggs with country ham. I've made and posted their recipe here (with my own little twist) and they were fab. So I thought, why not turn them into a deviled egg sandwich? Now to make this sandwich even better, I used my favorite items that I found at our local farmer's market. This baby arugula is to die for... if you're in the local Atlanta area, stop by the Peachtree Road Farmer's Market and buy some of this arugula from Abundant Harvest Gardens. We normally have to buy two bags every Saturday, one to cook with and one to snack on during the ride home. I don't think I can adequately describe the flavor of these greens. It is nothing like the arugula you buy at the grocery store that is sorta peppery... this shit is straight up wasabi. I literally can't rave about it enough. I'm also in love with this bread. It's from another vendor at the farmer's market, TGM Bread. But anyway, back to this sandwich... you start by boiling a dozen of eggs until they are just cooked through. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the yellow egg yolks, homemade mayo or aioli, softened goat cheese, minced cornichons + shallots, dijon mustard, white balsamic reduction, and a whole mess of fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, basil, and parsley to be exact). Then all you have to do is fold in the diced up egg whites and season with salt + pepper. The one component left, that really takes this recipe over the top, is the crispy prosciutto. I've had all different kinds of egg salad sandwiches, most of them had bacon them, and it just didn't taste quite right. I love the flavor of the country ham/prosciutto on JCT's deviled eggs, so I thought that would be perfect on a sandwich. But, one thing that had to be changed was the texture. This was easily solved by baking some prosciutto until the fat rendered and began to crisp up. Essentially, because it is so thinly sliced, the meat practically melts on your tongue, so that you have delicious-porky-goodness with each bite. All that you have to do is assemble the sandwiches. Get your gorgeous loaf of white bread and fry it in some butter until golden brown + toasted. Next, you slather on a thick heap of that herbed egg salad, followed by a sprinkling of homemade sriracha powder. Finally, you just lay on some slices of that crispy prosciutto and a mound of those spicy arugula greens. The only thing left to do is to devour it. And trust me, that is the easiest and yummiest part of the recipe! Enjoy :)

For the Crispy Prosciutto:
6oz Thinly Sliced Prosciutto
EVOO, For Brushing
3-4 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Cracked Pepper

For the Herbed Egg Salad:
12 Extra Large Eggs
¼C + 1T Homemade Aioli
3 Cornichons, Finely Minced
1 Small Shallot, Minced
2T Goat Cheese, Room Temperature
2t Dijon Mustard
1T White Balsamic Reduction (honey may be substituted if needed)
2T Fresh Chives, Snipped
1T Fresh Tarragon, Minced
2t Fresh Basil, Minced
1t Fresh Parsley, Minced
Kosher + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

For the Deviled Egg Salad Sandwiches:
Prepared Crispy Prosciutto Slices
Prepared Herbed Egg Salad
Fresh Baby Arugula
Homemade Sriracha Powder, For Sprinkling
Buttered, Toasted Slices of White Bread

1. For the Crispy Prosciutto: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the prosciutto evenly between both baking sheets, making sure to lay them flat. Brush the tops of the prosciutto with some EVOO and scatter the fresh sprigs of rosemary on top. Bake the prosciutto until the fat turns golden and the meat is darker in color. This will take about 15 minutes (making sure to rotate baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through the baking time). Using tongs, carefully transfer the prosciutto to paper towels to drain (it will continue tot crisp as it cools). Set them aside until you are ready to assemble the sandwich. 
2. For the Herbed Egg Salad: In a large pot, cover the eggs with cold water and bring them to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 10-12 minutes. Transfer the eggs to an ice water bath until chilled, about 5-10 minutes. In the bowl of a standing mixer that is fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the aioli, minced cornichons, goat cheese, Dijon mustard, white balsamic reduction, and minced shallots. Peel the eggs and slice them in half, and then scoop out the yellow egg yolk. On a cutting board, dice up the egg whites into bite size pieces and set them aside. Add the yolks to the bowl of aioli; beat this mixture until it is light and fluffy. Gently fold in the diced egg whites and herbs into the whipped egg yolk-aioli mixture. Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the egg salad in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble your sandwich.
3. Assembling the Sandwiches: In a small sauté pan, toast your bread in a little bit of butter until it is golden brown. Remove the bread from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Top one slice of the bread with the herbed egg salad, a sprinkle of Sriracha powder, a few strips of crispy prosciutto, and a pile of fresh baby arugula, followed by the other slice of bread. Enjoy while the arugula is still crisp!