Corn Fritters & Tomato Salad with Red Chile Crème Fraîche

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Yield: Yield: about 28 fritters Servings: 6 to 8

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The flavors of the tomatoes are developed by marinating in a fresh, mixed herb dressing and then further enhanced with a drizzle of chile-flavored crème fraîche.  A crispy outside and a tender interior makes the corn fritters delectable on their own, but when used to sop up the tomato juices on your plate they become nothing less than completely addictive.

Ingredients

5 large heirloom tomatoes, different colors are preferable, (about 2-3/4 lbs.), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt

1 packed cup coarsely chopped fresh mixed green and purple basil leaves

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh chives

1 cup thinly sliced scallions, green parts only

4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) all-purpose flour

6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) finely ground blue cornmeal

2 tsp. baking powder

1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. mild red chile powder, such as New Mexican

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1-1/4 cups whole milk

1-3/4 cups corn kernels, preferably fresh (from about 2 ears)

1 cup crème fraîche, at room temperature

2 Tbs. fresh lime juice

Vegetable oil for frying, (2-1/2 to 3 quarts)

Fleur de sel, for garnish

Instructions

Layer the tomato slices in a 3 to 4-quart baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar together with 1 tsp. salt, the basil, chives, and 3/4 cups of the scallions. Pour the marinade over the tomatoes, making sure they are evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate for up to 2 hours, flipping the tomatoes the half way through.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. of the chile powder, and the remaining 1/4 cup scallions. Add the eggs and the milk and whisk just to combine. Fold in the corn kernels. Let rest covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the crème fraîche, the remaining 2 tsp. chile powder, lime juice, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix well and set aside.

Put a rack on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside. Affix a thermometer to the side of a large Dutch oven or other heavy duty pot and add about 2-inches of the vegetable oil.  Heat over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. Drop dollops of the fritter batter into the hot oil about 2 Tbs. each, using an ice cream scoop, or two large serving spoons, frying in batches of 6 to 8 fritters, turning occasionally with a slotted spoon or a spider, until golden brown and cooked through, 3-1/2 to 5 minutes. Transfer the fritters to a paper towel lined plate and season lightly with salt. Put them on a wire rack and let cool.

To serve, spread a few dollops of the crème fraîche mixture on a platter. Top with the marinated tomatoes, leaving most of the herbs behind in the marinating liquid. Break 13 to 15 fritters in half with your fingers and arrange evenly over the tomatoes. Drizzle some of the marinade over the platter, season with fleur de sel. Put the remaining fritters in a medium bowl and bring to the table with the remaining crème fraîche mixture.

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