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Recipe

Fried Squash Blossoms with Filberts and Bayley Hazen Blue

Hirsheimer & Hamilton

Servings: 4

We really like the contrast of these squash blossoms: lightly crisp outside, warm and melting inside; comfort food and yet beautiful enough for a dinner party. The easiest squash blossoms to fill are the ones you pick yourself from your garden because just-picked blossoms are more pliable. If you buy them, make sure the petal part of the flower looks fresh and not limp. A pastry bag makes filling the blossoms easier, but you can use a spoon, too. Leave the trailing end at the tip of the bloom so the cheese stays inside. Because these are rich, one blossom per person is plenty.

Brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont make Bayley Hazen Blue, which is named after an old military road that was named after two Revolutionary War heroes. You can stuff a squash blossom with any blue cheese, but we like the drier, more crumbly blues for this recipe. Lemon zest is especially good because it mellows out the stronger flavors when cooking with blues.

Ingredients

For the filling

  • 2 Tbs. fromage blanc
  • 2 Tbs. blue cheese (preferably a dry, crumbly blue such as Bayley Hazen)
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped hazelnuts
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice plus more if needed

For the blossoms

  • 4 fresh squash blossoms
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbs. whole milk
  • 2/3 cup coarsely ground cornmeal, plus more if needed
  • sea salt
  • peanut oil, for frying

For the salad

  • 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. high-quality olive oil
  • 2 cups mizuna or mixed salad greens
  • 4 slices toasted dark levain bread, for accompaniment

Preparation

Make the filling

  • In a bowl, blend both cheeses, the nuts, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and lemon zest. Squeeze on the lemon juice, taste, and add more juice if you like. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag, if using.

Stuff the blossoms

  • Use your fingers to gently open the blossoms from the tip, taking care not to tear the petals. With the pastry bag, or using a spoon, fill each blossom with the cheese mixture. Don’t overstuff them; they shouldn’t expand like a balloon. Just put in enough cheese so they are filled from base to tip. When each blossom is filled to the top, gently roll the blossom on a work surface to evenly distribute the cheese inside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and milk. Set aside. Pour the cornmeal onto a small plate and add a pinch of salt, mixing with a fork.
  • Dredge a stuffed squash blossom in the egg wash and then in the cornmeal. (See Using the Wet-Hand/Dry-Hand Method of Breading, below.) Repeat with the remaining squash blossoms, adding more cornmeal to the plate if needed.
  • Pour enough peanut oil into a 10-inch or larger skillet or saucepan so that you have about 1/2 inch of oil. Heat the oil over medium-low heat until the oil registers 220°F on a deep-fat thermometer. (You don’t want too high a flame, or the cheese will weep and melt too quickly.) If you don’t have a thermometer, test if the oil is ready by tossing a few cornmeal grains into the pan. If the oil sizzles, it’s hot enough.
  • These cook quickly. Cook until the cornmeal becomes lightly crisp and golden, for no more than 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate to cool just for a few minutes while you dress the salad.

Make the salad

  • In a small bowl, make a dressing by whisking together both vinegars, the olive oil, and 1/2 tsp salt. Season with pepper. Put the mizuna in a medium bowl. Lightly dress the greens and mound equal amounts on four plates. Add a squash blossom and a slice of levain toast to each plate, and serve immediately.

Tip

Using the Wet-Hand/Dry-Hand Method of Breading
Whether dredging a squash blossom in cornmeal or a chicken paillard in grated Parmesan, you can avoid lumps and missed spots by always using the same hand for dipping in the egg wash, and always using the other hand for dredging the egg-dunked item in the dry ingredient. It seems to be automatic to use the same hand for both tasks, but if you train yourself to keep one hand wet and one hand dry, anything you dip in flour, cornmeal, grated cheese, or bread crumbs will turn out more evenly coated.

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