Photo by Stephanie Bourgeois

Ingredients:

  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 5 medium heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 whole coriander seeds
  • 3 whole white peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • Canola oil for frying

Recipe notes: Tapioca starch is obtained by grinding cassava root. You can purchase it at some specialty or natural food stores, as well as online.

RECIPE

Tomato Chicharrones

Greg Biggers

Café des Architectes at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower

Chicharrones are typically made by frying pork skin, but this meat-free twist from chef Greg Biggers uses tomatoes. Biggers used them to garnish a starter of goat cheese, prosicutto, and green garlic, but they are also great for snacking.

Yield: 1 quart

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the garlic cloves in foil. Roast in the oven until soft and fragrant, about 30 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over high heat until very hot. Place the tomatoes in the pan, cut side down, and cook just until they’re blackened and charred, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a food processor and purée until smooth. In a large saucepan, combine the tomato purée with the white balsamic vinegar and vegetable stock. Reserve.

Remove the garlic from the foil packet and let cool. Peel the cloves. Wrap the garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, coriander, white peppercorns, and red pepper flakes in a large piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Add to the tomato mixture and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and lower the heat to medium. Simmer for 40 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth-wrapped aromatics and discard. Season the tomato mixture with salt and pepper and let cool until it’s slightly warmer than room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150°F.

Add 1 1/3 cups of the tomato mixture to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Whisk in the tapioca starch. Continue whisking until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to cook until it becomes very thick and gummy, like a glob of silly putty. Pour the mixture onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Use an offset spatula to spread it to a thickness of a quarter of an inch. (This will take some effort.)  

Place the baking sheet in the oven and let the mixture dry out for 12 hours, until it’s shiny and hard like glass. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate the baking sheet for another 6 hours, until the glass is very crispy.

Break the tomato glass into large uneven shapes. Heat 2 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 400°F. Fry the pieces very quickly, until they puff up, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to let the excess oil drain off.

If not using immediately, store in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days.