This attitude may change if there are ever any mini-Dr Beccas running around, but for now I maintain that one of my absolute favorite parts of this job is all the traveling I get to do. This year I really put my money where my mouth is, because in the last 12 months I've given 10 invited talks, which is more than I'd given previously in my entire career, combined. In sum, I spoke in five US states, two Canadian provinces, and one...Australia. I saw mountains, rolling farmland, big cities, and some seriously impressive fall foliage. I met dozens of amazing scientists, and ate a LOT of really great food. There were many, many moments where I genuinely thought to myself, Wait, how is this my job again?
But speaking of food! On my most recent trip I was lucky enough to have J as my chauffeur, and while I was at the University doing my thing, he drove around the nearby countryside, stopping at dairy farms and farmer's markets. In the end, we had quite a haul:
In their fresh-picked form, the tomatoes don't like to hang out too long, and we've been trying to eat them as quickly as we can in as many ways as possible. They're obviously delicious on their own, but today I think I really hit it out of the park, so I thought I'd share what I did. First, here's what it looks like (recipe follows).
Apparently "stacks" are out of culinary vogue now, but I don't really care. Does that look amazing or what? I will go ahead and spoil the ending for you right now, it was pretty amazing. The main components are:
1. Fried green tomatoes (recipe below)
2. Fresh red tomatoes
3. 1 poached egg
4. fresh corn
The only thing that really takes any work at all is the Fried green tomatoes (or "G-toms," as I heard a cook in a restaurant call them) and even that is not that bad if you get your mise-en-place all nice and ready. I had actually made these as a side dish the other night, and reheated the leftovers for this dish. They crisp back up really nicely if you throw them in a cast iron skillet for a few minutes. Here's how to make them from scratch:
1. Slice the G-toms (sorry, it's just easier) around 1cm thick or a little less. Throw them into a tuppeware with some buttermilk and let them sit while you get everything else ready. Maybe flip the tupperware over halfway through your prep work to make sure the ones on top are coated.
2. Get out 3 more shallow tupperwares. You can just use plates, but I find that these contain the mess a lot better. Those black plastic containers with clearish lids you get a lot of takeout in are perfect. Line them up next to your stove if possible.
3. In the tupperware furthest from the stove, put some all-purpose flour and season it with salt, pepper, and any other spices you may like. A little cayenne or paprika is a good place to start.
4. In the middle tupperware, put 2 lightly scrambled eggs.
5. In the tupperware next to the stove goes your breading. I used about a 1:1 ratio of Panko crumbs and coarse corn meal, and it worked out perfectly. The Panko soaks up the oil and makes the G-toms super crispy, and the corn meal adds a more solid crunch plus that extra savory corn flavor.
6. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, and put a cookie-cooling rack inside, with a baking sheet on the level below it. Heat about 3/4 inch of vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet until it is at least 300 degrees F.
7. Take your G-toms through the assembly line--out of the buttermilk, into the flour (make sure to thoroughly shake off excess), the egg, the crumbs, and then into the oil. Work in a single layer, and flip them once you see the edges turning medium-dark brown.
8. As they come out, drain quickly on a paper towel and then get them onto the cookie rack in the oven. Keeping them on the cookie rack instead of a sheet pan or on paper towels for longer will ensure they stay crisp, and the baking sheet will catch any crumbs or oil that fall off so they don't burn at the bottom of your oven next time you use it.
9. Salt & enjoy! You can make a dipping sauce if you want, but they're good on their own or with a little hot sauce.
For the brunch stack, I alternated the fried G-toms with sliced R-toms, and then put a poached egg on top. While I was reheating the G-toms in the skillet, I threw in a small handful of corn that I had in the freezer* and then put that over the stack. I sprinkled it all with salt & pepper and some fresh cilantro, and then a few drops of Sriracha for zing.
Voila! You have yourself one tasty brunch stack. Now you know what to do with all those tomatoes.
* Something I learned a couple of years ago when I had my first CSA was 1) that you get A LOT of corn with a CSA; and 2) you can cut all the kernels off the cobs and freeze them, thus saving a ton of fridge space, and then you have corn whenever the mood strikes! This dish was the perfect example of something that was just screaming for a little corn.