Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fried Green Tomatoes

Tomatoes are here and it's perfectly clear! At least at the farmer's market...

My plants haven't done well this year and it is mostly my fault. There was an early bout with flea beetles that heavily damaged the less hardy varieties - I'm looking at you Beefsteaks - but the main problem was that I didn't have a bed ready for them. I've had them growing in pots for most of the summer with varying degrees of success. The Black Cherry tomatoes seem to do fine in pots - I've chomped on a few of those tasty little guys right off the vine - but the Black Calabash really wanted to be in the ground. I removed some borage and all of the chervil and put tomatoes in their places, so we'll see if I get anything in August.

No matter though! There has been a glut of local tomatoes of many varieties available at the market and the grocery store (if you are local, Amy's Organic has some great heirloom varieties, including super tasty blacks and green tigers). Joel and I picked up some green tomatoes and today's lunch was the southern classic: Fried Green Tomatoes

The hardest thing about this dish is hitting the right oil temperature. You want a medium/medium-high heat - for me the right setting is just shy of 4 on the large burner of my gas stove. The oil should look shimmery but it shouldn't be smoking. Use your least pretty tomato slice to test the oil - if it browns very quickly or burns you need to lower the heat. If there isn't a nice bubbly sizzle when you put the tomato in the pan, then you'll need to turn it up a bit. Its also very important that you don't overcrowd the pan. The cold tomatoes will reduce the temperature and if you add too many at once you'll end up with an oily, soggy end product. It may take a little practice to get the hang of it, but the supplies are inexpensive, the time involved is short and the end results are definitely worth a few botched batches.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active time: 20-30 minutes (depending on pan size)

Makes enough for 4 as an appetizer, side dish or sandwich.

2 large green tomatoes - cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
1 cup all-purpose flour - divided
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 eggs - beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt - divided
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/8 tsp (or to taste)
Vegetable or Peanut Oil (I use a combo) - enough for 1/4 inch deep in your pan

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees and line a baking sheet with paper towels.

Slice your tomatoes and prepare 2 plates for dredging. Spread 3/4 cup flour over one plate. On the other plate, mix the remaining flour, breadcrumbs and cornmeal along with half of the salt (1/4 tsp). In a shallow bowl beat the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and cayenne together. Once you have your dredging station ready to go you can start heating the oil in a heavy bottomed pan.

While the oil heats, start the dredge for your first round of tomatoes. You'll need to fry in batches, so prepare only as many as will fit in the pan comfortably (probably 3 slices). Lightly coat the slices in flour, dip in the egg mixture and then in the breadcrumb mixture. You want to fully coat the slices, but don't let things get gloppy.

Now it's time to fry! Test fry your first tomato. Gently lay the tomato in the hot oil with your fingers and fry for 2-3 minutes, until nicely browned. I like to go a little past "golden brown" to just plain brown. Adjust the heat as needed. Flip using a spatula and repeat on the other side. Place the slice on the baking sheet and put in the warm oven while you fry the next batch. Repeat the process until all of the slices have been fried.

Serve as a side with hot sauce, as an appetizer with pimiento cheese or spicy mayo, or as a sandwich with sourdough bread, pimiento cheese and shredded lettuce.

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