By Barry Estabrook
We live at the end of a gravel road named, appropriately, Locust Lane in recognition of the ancient black locust trees that line it. The recent spate of unseasonal heat has brought them into full, fragrant bloom. They perfume our entire yard. Our noses tell us that it is time to invite the neighbors over for the most fleeting foraged treat of the year, usually available for less than one week.
Sunday’s brunch: Locust fritters with perhaps a gargle of prosecco to wash them down. We always use the recipe Jacques Pépin included in his memoir, The Apprentice.
Full disclosure: I worked with Jacques on the memoir.
Locust Flower (Acacia) Fritters
Yield: 6 servings, 12 to 15 fritters
This is a taste from my youth that we still enjoy a few times each summer. Two large locust trees next to our garden supply more fragrant flowers than we can use during the few weeks a year that these blossoms are available. The tiny white flowers have the sweet flavor of honey and a powerful spicy and musky aroma.
4 cups locust flowers, stems removed
4 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 can (12 ounces) beer
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
2 1/2 cups canola oil, for cooking the fritters
Confectioners’ sugar, to dust the finished fritters
Mix the flowers, Grand Marnier, and sugar together in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
When ready to cook the fritters, place the flour, about two thirds of the beer, and the vanilla in a bowl. Mix well with a whisk until the batter is smooth, then add the remainder of the beer, and mix well.
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they form peaks but are nottoo firm. Using the whisk, combine them with the beer batter. Fold in the locust flower mixture.
At serving time, preferably, put enough of the oil in a large saucepan sothat it is about 1 inch deep in the pan. Heat to 375 degrees. Using a large spoon or a small measuring cup, pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into the hot oil.
Repeat, cooking 4 or 5 fritters at a time in the oil. Cook the fritters for about 4 minutes on one side, then turn with tongs, and cook for 4 minutes on the other side. They should be crisp and nicely browned on both sides.
Lift the fritters from the oil with a slotted spoon, and place them on a wirerack. Repeat, making additional fritters with the remaining batter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
NOTE: If cooking the fritters ahead, recrisp in a 425-degree oven for 5 to 6 minutes, or until crisp and hot, then dust with the confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
“Locust Flower (Acacia) Fritters” from THE APPRENTICE: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin. Copyright (c) 2003 by Jacques Pepin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.