One of the things that I love about my job is the opportunities to ferret out culinary secrets from talented chefs.
I’m crazy about the Fried Goat Cheese with Apples and Honey at Watermarc, an appetizer that showcases warm spheres of goat cheese drizzled with honey and served with crisp apples.
The honey melts over the spheres of warm cheese which are crisp and lightly browned on the outside and creamy-rich on the inside. The fruit adds irresistible crunch plus a spark of tartness, while a garnish of micro Dijon sprouts brings a smidgen of peppery attitude.
Marc Cohen, the executive chef-owner of Watermarc and 230 Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach, as well as Opah restaurants in Irvine and Aliso Viejo, generously shared the recipe with me, with the assurance that it is easy to prepare at home.
He told me that he often makes the dish in his home kitchen when entertaining. His guests, he said, love to watch the not-too-complicated process. And of course, they love to eat the tasty little fritters, too, often accompanied with chilled Gewurztraminer or Chardonnay.
Cohen’s father was an art professor with a deep appreciation for the work of artist Marc Chagall, a fondness that gave rise to his son’s name. And indeed, Marc Cohen has the eye of an artist. Yes, the tastes and textures of his dishes are in harmony, but the beautiful presentations on the plate also play an important role. For a passed appetizer, he serves bite-sized portions in Asian soup spoons. Plated as a first course, he alternates thin slices of skin-on apples with the warm spheres of cheese.
He lives in Mission Viejo with his wife and three children.
Watermarc’s Fried Goat Cheese with Apples and Honey
Yield: 6 servings
3 ounces goat cheese, see cook’s notes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic, 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 unpeeled Granny Smith apple, cut in half, cored
1 unpeeled Fuji apple, cut in half, cored
Fresh juice of lime half
Fresh juice of lemon half
1 tablespoon clover honey
2 tablespoons lemon lime soda, such a Sprite or 7-Up
Vegetable oil or canola oil for deep-frying
1 cup chilled buttermilk
Garnish: clover honey
Garnish: Dijon microgreens, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: Cheese shouldn’t be too cold or too warm when rolling into spheres. It needs to be pliable. Chef Cohen uses Laurel Chenel goat cheese. Old Bay Seasoning is a mix that includes mustard, paprika, celery seed, bay leaf, both black and red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, salt, and ginger. Dijon microgreens are difficult to find. I use the mixed microgreens sold at Trader Joe’s (sold in plastic containers in the refrigerated vegetable case). Or use baby arugula. If serving as a plated first course, rather than dicing the apples, thinly slice them and alternate the slices vertically with the spheres. If you prefer, deep-fry spheres before guests arrive and reheat on baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
1. Cut goat cheese into 1/2-ounce pieces. Dip palms of hands into flour to lightly coat and roll cheese into spheres; chill 35 to 40 minutes.
2. For passed appetizers: Cut apples into 1/4-inch slices. Cut lengthwise into 1/4-wide matchsticks. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch dice. Place in bowl. Toss with juices, honey and soda. Set aside.
3. Place 4 inches of oil in a deep pot (that is at least 8 inches deep) on high heat. Bring to 375 degrees (use a deep-fat fryer thermometer) and regulate heat to maintain that temperature, reducing or increasing heat when needed. Place buttermilk in bowl next to stove. Place flour mixture in a shallow container next to buttermilk bowl and place a plate lined with paper towels next to it. Roll chilled cheese spheres in flour, then into buttermilk, letting excess buttermilk drip off. Roll again in flour. Cautiously lower into heated oil; do not overcrowd pan. Fry until lightly browned, about 20 to 30 seconds; drain on paper towels. Use a slotted spoon to place a bite-sized amount of apples (without liquid) in each Asian spoon. Top each with warm goat cheese sphere. Drizzle a little honey on top of each sphere and garnish with Dijon microgreens or arugula microgreens. Serve immediately.
Source: executive chef Marc Cohen, Watermarc, Laguna Beach
A quick tip from Melissa’s …
Baked Apples. Scrumptious, right?
And prepared in the slow cooker they make an irresistible breakfast. New slow cookers automatically shift to warm when the cooking is complete. So put them on before you go to bed and the whole house will smell like apple pie in the morning.
Granny Smiths or Ambrosia, Fuji or Gala …
They are all delicious cooked this way. Serve them with a dollop of yogurt or garnish of granola. Either way these lovely warm apples are superb.
“Baked” Apples a la Slow Cooker
Yield: 4 apples
4 large apples, Granny Smith, or Gala, Ambrosia, or Fuji
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, dark or light
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons raisins or dried currants
3 tablespoons dried cranberries or dried cherries
2 teaspoons butter
1/3 cup apple juice
1. Core apples 3/4 of the way down from stem end using a melon baller. In a bowl combine sugar, cinnamon and dried fruit. Place apples in slow cooker (preferably the newer style that automatically shifts to warm when cooking is complete). Spoon sugar mixture into the cavities of the apples, reserving any leftover sugar-cinnamon mixture. Dot tops of apples with butter. Sprinkle reserved sugar-cinnamon mixture over tops of apples. Pour apple juice around (but not over) apples.
2. Set slow cooker to 4 hours on low. Voila!