Chef Frank Stitt's love for delicious Southern ingredients such as country ham comes from his roots in rural Alabama. Heavily involved with promoting sustainable agriculture, Stitt is a firm believer in buying fresh produce at local farmer's markets for his restaurants in Birmingham, Ala. Here he shares a few of his favorite recipes:
Flounder with Lady Pea Succotash
Recipe courtesy of Frank Stitt
Notes from Frank: The delicacy of flounder fillets is complemented here by the tiny, tender, pale green lady peas, which are the most delicate of the pea world. The addition of lots of basil, dill, and chives to this nontraditional succotash makes a very simple dish very special. If lady peas are not available, substitute favas or sweet peas.
For the succotash
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
1 cup cooked lady peas (or substitute pink-eyes, crowders, or cranberry beans)
1/4 cup pot liquor from the peas reserved
2 tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 ears corn, husked, boiled for 4 minutes, and kernels cut off the cob
1/2 small shallot, finely minced
4 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
4 sprigs dill leaves, coarsely chopped
A few chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling if desired
For the flounder
Four 6- to 8-ounce flounder fillets, skin on or skinless
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as canola
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1.Make the succotash. Prepare a hot grill or preheat the broiler. Grill or broil the onion slices, turning once, until lightly charred on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let cool, then cut into 1/4-inch-dice.
2. Combine vegetables. In a large bowl, combine the charred onion, peas, tomatoes, corn, shallot, basil, dill, and chives. Stir in the sherry vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the olive oil, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
3. Prepare the flounder. Heat a heavy skillet just large enough to hold the fillets over medium-high heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the hot skillet and heat until shimmering. Reduce the heat to medium, place the fillets skin side up in the skillet, and cook until nicely golden on the first side, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully turn the fish and cook until just done, another 3 to 4 minutes. (Peek inside one fillet to check for doneness -- the thickest part should have turned to a pearly white.) While the fish finishes cooking, add the succotash and pea pot liquor to a saute pan and cook over medium heat until heated through. 4. Serve. Transfer the fish to serving plates and serve with the succotash and the lemon wedges. Drizzle each fillet with a splash of olive oil if desired.
Grilled Figs with Country Ham, Walnuts, and Lemon-Mint Cream
Recipe courtesy of Frank Stitt
Notes from Frank: Richard Olney was the inspiration for this dish. He loved figs more than any other fruit and was especially fond of their affinity with cured ham. The lightly charred and salty flavor of grilled prosciutto is in perfect contrast with the sweetness of the warm and tender fig. When making this simple recipe, use only the freshest ingredients: perfectly ripe figs, the finest prosciutto, and new-crop walnuts. The smoky ham combined with the just-beginning-to-warm, plump fig is one of the sexiest bites ever.
A handful of mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
Juice from 1 1/2 lemons
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ripe Black Mission figs
16 walnut halves
16 very thin slices prosciutto*
4 fig leaves for serving (optional)
*Note: Do not be tempted to remove the flavorful fat from the prosciutto. The perfect slice of prosciutto has one edge with some of the white fat left intact.
1.Prepare a hot grill.
2. Ready the sauce. Finely chop the mint leaves and place in a mortar. Add the lemon juice and pound to a paste with the pestle (or mash into a paste with a wooden spoon in a small bowl.) Strain into a medium bowl, add the cream, salt, and pepper and stir to incorporate. (The acidity of the lemon juice will thicken the cream.)
3. Prep the figs. Halve the figs and place a walnut half on the cut side of each. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each fig half, only slightly overlapping the ends.
4. Grill the figs, add garnish and serve. Char the figs on the hot grill for about 30 to 45 seconds per side. The figs should be just warmed through and the prosciutto crisp in parts. Place the figs on small plates or a platter, atop the fig leaves if using, and serve with a bowl of the mint cream. Garnish with sprigs of mint on the side.