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Anne Freeze: Fried green tomatoes (the food, not the movie)

 

Anne Freeze

 

Whew, I''m off the road for a while and so glad of it! After four days in Miami and then four in Athens, Ga., two weeks in a row, I''m thankful to wake up at home and have to plan a day here.  

 

We had some delicious food in Miami, but most of it was seafood that isn''t readily available here. In Athens, with my two stepdaughters, we had itty-bitty tacos at Taqueria del Sol, falafel at The Grit, and Faithe had her first taste of feta cheese in Five & Ten''s popular watermelon and feta salad. Unfortunately, we had to skip The Varsity on this trip, but there''s always next time. 

 

 

 

Fried green delights 

 

Terry watered my tomatoes while I was away and, lo and behold, I have two that might make it from green to red. I brought back one each of five different heirloom varieties from the Athens organic farmers'' market, so I may just go ahead and pick one of my two fruits while it is green, ''cause I''m a Southern girl and I love my fried green tomatoes! 

 

You''d think fried green tomatoes were contemporary, as they seem to appear on restaurant menus ranging from downhome to uptown. However, I did find a recipe in my oldest cookbook, "The New Dixie Receipt Book" (1902), which is as useable today as it was then. The tomatoes are covered with simple cream gravy and sound really good. Find the recipe with today''s column. 

 

Plain or fancy, the base is always a slice of green tomato breaded in some way, and either deep- or pan-fried. The variety comes from what happens next. In my former food shop, I usually served them with crumbled goat cheese and a creamy roasted red pepper sauce. For variety I offered them stacked a la Napoleon style, with rounds of fried grits and then topped with the same red pepper sauce. The sauce had a creaminess that complimented the crunch and tang of the tomato and still had loads of flavor from the roasted red peppers.  

 

I just found a recipe at an online blog for fried green tomato sandwiches with fried bologna, onions and Miracle Whip. Sounds good to me. Or fried green tomato Benedict? Yummm ... 

 

I have included a few recipes today from a variety of chef sources. I have tasted fried green tomatoes here; some were good, one was excellent and one was awful.  

 

What makes them awful? Well, I think it all starts with the thickness of the tomato slice. Too thin, and it simply either burns or is way too greasy. Deep-frying in a restaurant fryer that just had fish in it isn''t too appetizing either. Pan-frying in oil that isn''t hot enough will produce a greasy tomato; oil that is too hot will burn the breading before the tomato itself has a chance to cook.  

 

I''m not a fan of using pure corn meal, as it''s a little too gritty for me, but hey, it''s your kitchen, you do what you want. I also prefer to season the breading (flour and corn meal) with only salt and pepper. You could add any number of flavorings to the breading, such as garlic powder, garlic salt, herbs, etc.  

 

I hope you enjoy the recipes. 

 

 

 

Inquiring minds 

 

I have a question: What is your favorite pantry staple and why? Or, do you have something lurking in there that you don''t know how to use? Let me know, and we''ll talk! 

 

 

 

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES 

 

 

 

Six large green tomatoes 

 

One egg yolk 

 

Salt and pepper, to taste 

 

Breadcrumbs 

 

Butter 

 

 

 

For the gravy: 

 

One tablespoon flour 

 

Two tablespoons butter 

 

l/2 pint milk 

 

Salt 

 

     

     

  • Cut tomatoes in slices 1/8-inch thick.  

     

  • Beat the egg yolk with a tablespoon of cold water.  

     

  • Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tomatoes and dip first in the egg, then in fine breadcrumbs. Fry in butter quite brown on both sides and serve with a gravy. 

     

  • To make the gravy, rub 1 tablespoonful of flour with two tablespoonfuls of butter. When well creamed, brown in a pan, add 1/2 pint of boiling milk, stir steadily until it begins to thicken, then add a spoonful of salt and pour over the tomatoes.
 

 

(Source: "The New Dixie Receipt Book") 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIED GREEN TOMATO AND ARUGULA SALAD 

 

 

 

One large egg 

 

1 cup buttermilk 

 

Three very firm green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices 

 

3/4 cup cornmeal 

 

1/4 cup all-purpose flour 

 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

 

Dash of cayenne pepper 

 

2 cups peanut, corn or canola oil for frying 

 

1/2 cup Buttermilk Vinaigrette (note: e-mail me if you want this recipe) 

 

12 cherry and/or grape tomatoes halved or quartered 

 

One large bunch arugula 

 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 

 

     

     

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Lightly beat the egg in a shallow bowl and stir in the buttermilk. Place the tomato slices in the buttermilk mixture, turning to coat them.  

     

  • In a shallow pan, combine the cornmeal and flour and season with 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper and the cayenne, stirring well. 

     

  • In a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat to 360 degrees. 

     

  • Meanwhile, dredge one tomato slice at a time in the cornmeal, turning to coat and gently pressing into the cornmeal so that it adheres. Transfer each prepared slice to a rack set over a baking dish. 

     

  • Using tongs, carefully ease the breaded tomatoes into the hot oil in batches of about four at a time so that the oil does not cool down. Cook about two minutes, then turn and cook on the other side until the coating is a nice even golden brown, about two minutes more.  

     

  • Transfer the fried tomatoes to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and put them in the oven to keep warm while you fry the remaining slices. 

     

  • Ladle or spoon vinaigrette onto each plate and stack the fried tomatoes on top. Toss the cherry tomatoes and arugula with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange alongside the fried.
 

 

(Source: "Frank Stitt''s Southern Table") 

 

 

 

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, A LA EARLY GIRL* 

 

 

 

Five green tomatoes 

 

2 cups flour 

 

1 tablespoon salt 

 

1 teaspoon black pepper 

 

Two eggs 

 

1/4 cup milk 

 

3 cups breadcrumbs 

 

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

 

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley 

 

Zest of one orange 

 

Vegetable oil for frying 

 

     

     

  • Remove core, trim ends and slice the tomatoes about 1/2-inch thick. Spread out on a rack and allow to stand 15 to 20 minutes. 

     

  • In a wide bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper. In a second bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. In a third bowl, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley and orange zest. 

     

  • Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a wide, heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking. 

     

  • Dredge tomato slices first in the flour mixture, then in the egg wash, then in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides well. Fry in small batches (don''t overcrowd), turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Return to rack to drain. Serve immediately.
 

 

(Source: "In Praise of Tomatoes," by Ronni Lundy; *Early Girl is a restaurant in Asheville, N.C.)

 

 

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