We've always known beignets to be deep-fried choux pastry topped with powdered sugar, and made famous by New Orleans's Cafe Du Monde (which serves the treats as a breakfast). But in his new cookbook, celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre has given the French "fritter" his own savory spin. Below, the chef shares an exclusive excerpt with us from the new limited-edition 10th anniversary edition of his first cookbook, CRAVE: The Feast of the Five Senses.
One of the greatest pleasures of eating is to experience contrasting dimensions of texture. A tomato beignet has a wonderfully crisp crust to surround the warm, velvety tomato filling providing a true contrast of texture in each bite.
NOTE: Makes 4 appetizer servings
Ingredients for Puréed Tomato Filling:
2 pounds ripe hothouse tomatoes (about 6)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1½ tbsp. grated orange peel
Ingredients for Beignets:
4 whole firm tomatoes with stems (about 1¾ pounds total)
Canola oil (for deep-frying)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. fleur de sel
1 cup ice-cold good-quality lager
¼ cup dried bread crumbs, fresh or packaged
½ cup mixed baby greens (for garnish)
Directions for the Pureed Tomato Filling:
Submerge the tomatoes into a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water to cool slightly. Using a small sharp paring knife, peel off the tomato skins. Quarter the tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and orange peel. Cook until the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates completely and the mixture is thick, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Purée the tomato mixture in a food processor until smooth (makes about 2 cups). Cook over medium heat until the puree is very thick like tomato paste and reduced by half, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with fleur de sel and pepper. Cover the pureée to keep it warm.
Directions for the Beignets:
Submerge the tomatoes into a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water to cool slightly. Using a small sharp paring knife, peel off the tomato skins, keeping the stems intact. Using a knife, remove a quarter-size piece from the bottom of each tomato; reserve the tomato pieces. Using a small melon baller, carefully scoop out the pulp and seeds from the tomatoes. Set the hollowed tomatoes and tomato pieces aside.
DO-AHEAD: The hollowed tomatoes and tomato puree can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead. Cool. Cover separately and refrigerate. Rewarm the tomato purée before continuing.
Add enough oil to a deep fryer or large Dutch oven to come 3 inches up the sides of the pot. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350° F.
Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and fleur de sel in a medium bowl to blend. Add the lager and whisk until the batter is almost smooth. Transfer the batter to a 2-cup glass measuring cup. This will make it easier to coat the tomatoes. Spoon the warm tomato purée into a pastry bag. Holding the pastry bag tip at the hole in the bottom of the hollowed tomatoes, pipe the tomato purée into the tomatoes. Return the quarter-size pieces of tomatoes to the tomato holes. Place the bread crumbs in a small bowl. Roll the tomatoes in the bread crumbs to coat, leaving the top one quarter of the tomato uncoated. Holding the tomatoes by their stems, dip each tomato into the batter to cover the bread crumbs. Fry the tomatoes in the hot oil until the batter is deep golden brown, about 2 minutes.
To Assemble and Serve:
Arrange the mixed baby greens on 4 plates. Place 1 tomato beignet atop the baby greens on each plate and serve immediately.
Pick up a copy of CRAVE: The Feast of the Five Senses for more delicious recipes like this one.
Does this sound like a recipe you'd like to try? Tell us in the comments below.