This time, I wanted to highlight the amazing goat cheese coming out of this dairy farm in Climax, NC. Technically, it falls outside of our 50 mile requirement, but oh well. It may well be good enough to increase our mileage requirement. The cheese is good. You must try the cheese.
I used two types in this recipe - their Crottin, and the Smoked Round. The Crottin is almost brie-like in texture and flavor, with very earthy, animal overtones. The smoked round - as expected - tart, salty, smoky. Both delicious. Both can be found at this cheese counter.
Ever wonder why something as nutritionless as Grits are so ubiquitous in the south? (Hey, I love them too, but I'm gonna quote my Gramma here - "Grits are a vehicle for butter and salt." And don't forget cheese.) It grows easily, happily here. We can't grow wheat that's hard enough to mill into bread flour (which requires harsh winters), or very many other grains either, so corn it is. According to awesome bread guy I met at the Atherton Mills Farmer's Market last week, we can grow wheat appropriate for pastry flour. When I find someone selling it locally, I'll put it up.
Onto the grub!
Farmstead Eggs Poached in Roasted Tomato and Arugula Ragu with Zucchini Flower Fritters and Cheese Grits.
It's a mouthful, to say and to eat! Serves 2 with lovely leftover grits for the next day.
For the Ragu:
1 cup Arugula, sliced to ribbons
2 large heirloom tomatoes, peeled and seeded, sliced into sixths
1/2 cup brown ale (we used our homemade brew - OMB's Copper Ale would work just fine)
4 scapes, trimmed and finely minced
1 large vidalia onion, sliced into rings
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs
For the Fritters:
1 round crottin
6 large zucchini flowers, cleaned (see below)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp each salt and pepper
For the Grits:
1 1/3 cup grits (we used grits from here)
4 cups water
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 round smoked goat cheese
Preheat your oven to 350. Oil a roasting pan and put your 'maters and garlic in the pan, don't cover, and stick them in the oven for about half an hour.
While they're roasting, make your broth. Put the butter in a small pot or dutch oven and melt. Add your onions and scapes and over medium-low heat, caramelize them. This should take about 20 minutes. When they've just started to brown, add 2 cups of water. Simmer another 10 minutes. Strain your broth, discard the onion, and return stock to the pot.
Add your honey, beer, (and what should be at this point) roasted garlic (run it through a garlic press) to your broth. Boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes.
Roughly chop your (now roasted) tomatoes, reserving as much juice as possible. Add your arugula first, then your tomatoes, and simmer 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, test for salt (if you used salted butter, you won't need to add any), cover, and set aside.
Wash your grits, twice, skimming the bran off the top and draining them as well as you can. Add your water and two tablespoons of butter, cover, and bring to a boil. When boil is achieved, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
If your garden is pesticide free, chances are you're going to have ants hiding in your squash flowers. So, carefully open them up and wash the interior, gently, until you're sure they're gone (or just eat 'em - added protein!). Set in a colander to dry.
Mix your flour, water, oil, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl (dry in the bowl, wet in a measuring cup, then pour liquid all at once into your dry bowl, whisking the whole time). You may need to add a teeny bit more water to achieve the thick, souplike batter you're looking for. Slice your crottin into 6 triangular pieces and push onc piece into the base of each flower. Twist the petals, gently, to close.
Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable or corn oil in an iron skillet until hot. Test with a small dollop of batter.
When your oil is ready, grab the stuffed flowers by the stem and petal ends and slowly turn them in the batter until they're coated. Place them in the oil, attempting to keep them from touching. Fry on one side about 3 minutes, until golden. Using a spoon and fork, carefully turn them over and fry the other side until golden as well. Drain them on paper towels and put in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.
Reheat your ragu until it's almost boiling, then add your eggs (I use a non-stick ladle, crack an egg into it, and lower it into the liquid, one at a time). Cook for 2 minutes, then cover and remove from heat.
At this point, your grits should be nearing completion. Open the pot and take a peek. If there's still a lot of water on top, stir it in and turn the heat up to medium. If they look good and thick, take the pot off the heat, stir in your smoked goat cheese and two tablespoons of butter. Stir well.
To serve, ladle a large spoonful of grits onto the center of each plate, using the back of the spoon to spread the grits into a circle. Using a different spoon, ladle two eggs and additional ragu into the middle of the grit pile, letting the stock run to the edges. Place three fritters on top of the eggs and ragu. Sprinkle with additional arugula, if you so desire.