Fried Green Tomatoes

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Living in Australia during the holiday season makes me crave Southern food from home since it’s summer and doesn’t really feel like Christmas.  Luckily, my search efforts were rewarded with a few green tomatoes at the market this weekend that were hiding in a box full of hundreds of tomatoes.  It didn’t take long before I had those beauties coated in dredge and sizzling in oil in my trusty cast iron skillet.

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When it came to treating these green tomatoes with the respect they deserved I turned to my Southern Cooking bible – The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook.  At first, I was skeptical about two yankee transplants’ ability to write a cookbook on Southern food but they’ve done their research and it’s an incredible book that includes some good stories behind the recipes.  Definitely pick up a copy if you are interested in Southern American cooking.

Since the Lee Bros have spent a lot of time in New York where green tomatoes are about as popular as they are in in Australia, they include instructions on how to turn firm unripe tomatoes into the tangy taste of green tomatoes – just slice, sprinkle with a little salt and lemon juice before dredging.  I wish I had known this earlier!  They also have a section on how to source green tomatoes, since they rarely make it to the market.  Basically, you need to talk to a local tomato grower or grow your own.

I always eat my fried green tomatoes with ranch dressing – if you are ambitious then homemade ranch is definitely worth the extra effort.

Fried Green Tomatoes adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium green tomatoes
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 cups peanut or canola oil (or just enough to fill 1/3 inch deep in the skillet)

For the fry dredge:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbs stone-ground cornmeal (I use Red Mill)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional, for a spicy kick)

Preparation:

  1. Sift the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Stir and spread onto a large plate or pie pan.
  2. Cut the tomatoes to 1/4 inch thickness with a serrated tomato or bread knife.
  3. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a broad, shallow bowl.
  4. Pour the oil into a 12-in skillet and heat over medium-high heat until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 375 F (190 C), or until a pinch of flour sizzles when added to the oil.  If using a different sized skillet just fill with oil to the depts of 1/3 of an inch.
  5. Heat the oven to 225 F (107 C).  Set a baker’s rack on a cookie sheet on the top rack.
  6. Taste the tomatoes, if they aren’t tart then sprinkle with salt and lemon juice.
  7. Press 1 tomato slice into the dredge, once on each side, shaking any excess loose.  Dunk in egg mixture, then dredge the slice on both sides again.  Shake of any excess and place the slice on a clean plate.  Repeat with more slices until you’ve dredged enough for a batch (3 to 4).
  8. With a spatula, transfer the first batch to the oil.
  9. As the first batch cooks, dredge the 2nd batch of tomatoes, but keep an eye on the first.
  10. Once the slices have turned golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes), flip them carefully and fry for 2 minutes more or until golden brown.
  11. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a plate lined with double thickness paper towels and drain for 1 minute.
  12. Transfer the slices to the baker’s rack in the oven, arranging them in a single layer, so they remain warm and crisp.
  13. Repeat with the remaining slices until all the green tomatoes have been fried.
  14. Serve right away with ranch dressing.

This fry dredge can be used to fry other veggies and even fish, such as whiting.  I got a little carried away and sliced some okra to 1/4 inch thickness and followed the same dredging and frying process.

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