Bantam + Biddy. [Photo: Alex Lassiter]
Farm-to-table has become ubiquitous not just for restaurant chefs but for home cooks, too. And for good reason: if you eat something straight from a farm, then you eat something that's traveled across the globe to get to your grocery store, you'll know why all the cool kids are shopping at farmers markets and picking up CSA shares. Eating locally means eating seasonally, when things just taste better—like the fuzzy, fresh, juice-drippy Georgia peach. Here's what Atlanta chefs recommend doing with our state fruit, from grilling to boozing to slurping fresh, peaches mean summertime, y'all.
· The best way to check when a peach is ripe is to press gently on the flesh closest to the stem at the top of the fruit. This part ripens first and you can avoid bruising on the rest of the flesh.
· For pickling, cooking, or baking, it's better to use firm ripe peaches because they hold their shape through the cooking process.
· Wash peaches very well if you want to eat the skin—the peach fuzz can collect pesticide residue or attract pollen and dust. Organic peaches are ideal, but harder to find.
· The best way to peel a peach to avoid bruising is to use a "y" shaped peeler and zigzag the blade over the skin from the top of the fruit to the bottom in sections until it has all been removed.
Tyler Williams, Woodfire Grill: At Woodfire Grill, I like to take fresh peaches and juice them. I save the juice as well as the leftover pulp. I cryovac the pulp with champagne vinegar and leave it to infuse. We strain the pulp from the vinegar and then use it along with the fresh peach juice, saffron, thyme, butter, honey, and a dash of salt to glaze freshly sliced peaches. Great with pork, game, or cheese.
Kevin Rathbun, Kevin Rathbun's Restaurants: I like using grilled dried peaches with cream cheese stuffed inside French toast, served with peach pink-peppercorn syrup; or venison carpaccio with juniper pickled peaches and extra virgin olive oil; or salt and pepper fried shrimp with sambal-peach glaze.
Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House: One of the best tips I have is to split them and grill them to add a nice char to that luscious sweetness. You can then garnish with arugula, some fresh goat cheese, and a citrusy herbal vinaigrette.
Robert Phalen, One Eared Stag: Pick them when they are still slightly firm, let them ripen at room temperature. Split in half, remove the pit (reserve for making bitters), and grill or smoke peaches—remove the skin, it should slide off easily. Enjoy them with some nice salted pork and a glass of rosé.
Justin Fox, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q: After you slice the peaches (I prefer Pearson Farm peaches), take the leftover peach bits and cores, cover with water, and pour in ½ cup brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes for a peach "broth." You can use this peach "broth" in desserts or entrees, as a sauce or mix (try it in a cocktail!).
Jessica Luna, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q (pastry chef): Keep it simple: · Use peaches as close to their natural state as possible—the simpler the preparation the better.
· Cook with a little butter and brown sugar for pie filling.
· Cut in half and grill. Serve with ice cream and a little honey drizzled over the top.
Lance Gummere, Bantam + Biddy: With all due respect to the grilling, marinating, fermenting, and macerating of the peach, I still think the best way to eat one is to pluck it right from the tree and eat it in its sun-warmed heat.
Eddie Hernandez, Taqueria del Sol: Make a zesty relish! When cutting the peaches to make a relish, leave the peel on—this will cut some of the sweetness, allowing many different flavors to come through. A peach relish is great over a piece of fish (like tilapia).
Ford Fry, JCT Kitchen & Bar, No. 246, The Optimist: I love using peaches as a "meat-juice absorbing vehicle!" For instance, peel if you like, split in half, and remove pit. Split some Vidalia onion bulbs in half as well and toss everything together with some extra virgin olive oil to coat, and season with kosher salt, fresh black pepper, and a splash of sherry vinegar. Place peach and onions underneath a well marbled cote du pork (rack of pork) and roast until pork is medium and the peaches are sweet, soft, and a bit sour!