Some mental associations run deep, and the combination of eggplant and white beans always screamed Italian to Virtue chef de cuisine Damarr Brown — until he reexamined it, per the restaurant's mission, in the context of Southern American foodways. “With eggplant being commonly used not only in the South but also in Africa, it led me to add a couple of African ingredients: harissa and peanuts.” With its low burn and fresh crunch, the resulting dish gave Brown’s cucina connection the boot. While he makes his harissa from scratch, a store-bought version will do the trick here; he recommends Mina brand.
Eggplant with white beans, harissa, and peanut
Damarr Brown, Chef de cuisine at Virtue
Makes 4 servings
|½ cup||brown sugar|
|1 cup||kosher salt, plus more to taste|
|2 large||globe eggplants, halved lengthwise|
|1 lb.||dried white beans, rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained|
|1 cup||plus 3 Tbsp. harissa|
|1 Tbsp.||olive oil|
|1 medium||jicama, peeled and cut into thin strips|
|Zest and juice of 1 lime|
|1 bunch||cilantro, leaves and stems chopped|
|2 tsp.||ground cumin|
1. Mix brown sugar and 1 cup salt in a large bowl. Place eggplant halves, cut side up, on a rack set over a rimmed baking tray. Generously season eggplant with salt-sugar mixture and let rest, uncovered, at room temperature at least 4 hours (or in the refrigerator overnight).
2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place beans in a 4-quart pot, adding water to cover, along with onion. Bring to a simmer. Skim any buildup from the surface and add 3 tablespoons harissa, olive oil, and salt to taste. Cook until tender, about 1 hour. Set aside.
3. While beans cook, rinse salt-sugar mixture from eggplant and dry with paper towels. Brush generously with remaining harissa and roast in a baking dish in the oven until fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Toss jicama with lime zest and juice, cilantro, cumin, and a pinch of salt.
5. Divide beans among four plates. Top with eggplant, followed by jicama slaw. Garnish with peanuts.
Debbie Gold has always had a soft spot for potato pancakes. “I’m Jewish, so they’re a staple in my house,” she says. “Plus, who doesn’t love fried, crispy potatoes?” But it took cooking for a couple of highly discerning diners — her kids — to make her see this seemingly basic dish’s full potential: “You can be so creative with them. I would sneak veggies inside, like grated celery root and turnips.” One of her favorite creations at Found Kitchen & Social House, where she is the executive chef, pushes the fried potato formula to new heights of decadence. “Our focus is local, so topping it with a Midwest delicacy, such as Rushing Waters smoked trout from Wisconsin, was perfect. Salmon roe gives it another layer of flavor, resulting in crunchy, smoky, and tangy bite.” We’re sold.
Smoked trout potato cakes with crème fraÎche and salmon roe
Debbie Gold, Executive Chef at Found Kitchen + Social House
Makes 4 servings
|1 lb.||russet potatoes, scrubbed|
|½||medium yellow onion, peeled|
|1 clove||garlic, minced|
|1 tsp.||kosher salt|
|Canola oil, for frying (about 1 cup)|
|2 Tbsp.||crème fraîche|
|4 oz.||smoked trout|
|2 oz.||salmon roe|
|2||chives, cut into 1-inch pieces|
1. Adjust an oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line one baking tray with paper towels and fit another with a cooling rack.
2. Grate potatoes on a large-holed box grater into a medium mixing bowl, followed by onion. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, tossing to combine.
3. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium. (Oil is ready once a piece of potato sizzles immediately when added.) Heap about ¼ cup of potato mixture into the skillet; repeat with the rest. (You should end up with four potato cakes.) Cook potato cakes, turning, until they’re golden brown on each side, 4 to 5 minutes total.
4. Place cakes on the towel-lined tray to absorb excess oil. Transfer cakes to the rack-lined tray and bake for 5 minutes.
5. Center potato cakes on four plates. Top each with a dollop of crème fraîche, followed by a piece of smoked trout. Garnish with ½ ounce of salmon roe and chives.
We get it: It’s really tough to look past D'Andre Carter’s succulent smoked meats, particularly his masterful brisket, and that’s OK. But the barbecue virtuoso (and fine-dining vet) urges you to save a little room for this dish, which he prepares with the same love as everything that passes through his smoker at Soul & Smoke. “There’s a lot of care making sure it’s authentic and deeply respectful,” he notes, “like sourcing the best grits to really allow this Southern classic to shine.” To that end, he recommends seeking out heirloom grits, like those from Marsh Hen Mill (marshhenmill.com) in coastal South Carolina.
Shrimp and Grits
D’Andre Carter, Chef-owner at Soul & Smoke
Makes 6 servings
|1½ lb.||16/20 shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rinsed|
|6 Tbsp.||olive oil, divided|
|3 Tbsp.||Cajun seasoning, divided|
|8 Tbsp.||unsalted butter, divided|
|10 cups||chicken stock, divided|
|1 cup||heavy whipping cream|
|¼ cup||brown sugar|
|1 tsp.||kosher salt, plus more to taste|
|1 cup||yellow stone-ground grits|
|¼ cup||creamed corn|
|3 cups||andouille sausage, diced|
|2 cups||yellow onion, diced|
|1 cup||green pepper, diced|
|1 cup||celery, diced|
|2 Tbsp.||minced garlic|
|1½ Tbsp.||shrimp base (like Minor’s brand)|
|1 cup||scallions, chopped|
1. In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning. Cover bowl and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.
2. Make the roux: Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring to incorporate. Cook over medium low, stirring occasionally, until roux reaches the color of light toast, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. Make the grits: Combine 2 cups chicken stock, heavy whipping cream, brown sugar, salt, and remaining butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in grits. Return to heat and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until grits are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. Fold in creamed corn and check seasoning, adding more salt if desired.
4. Make the bisque: In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium until it shimmers. Add sausage and cook until brown. Remove sausage and set aside. In the same pan, combine onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic; cook until translucent. Return sausage to pan and add remaining Cajun seasoning, pepper, and shrimp base, stirring until vegetables are coated and mixture is fragrant. Add remaining chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in roux and cook until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Cook shrimp and assemble: Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add shrimp in a single layer and sear, turning, 2 to 3 minutes. Divide grits among six bowls and top each with bisque. Arrange shrimp on top and garnish with scallions.