Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Fry Who Loved Me - Spritely Fried Green Tomatoes

When I moved to Florida in 1991, I was almost 40, and had already prepared something on the order of 10,314,424,798,490 meals for family, friends, coworkers, a couple of enemies and passing strangers. Despite that, I had never prepared nor even tasted a fried green tomato. Or grits. Or the iconic collard green.  Clearly, there was a serious lack in my culinary education.  While Florida is often referred to as "the least southern of the southern states" the truth is that you are much more likely to find grits rather than hot oatmeal on a Florida breakfast menu.

A tomato down south is not merely a colorful accompaniment for a wedge salad - instead, chefs fry the green ones like a slice of eggplant for a nice Italian parm, or make pies out of the red ones.  Yes, tomato pie.  Unbelievably good.  When I find a decent green tomato that is NOT cozying up to its riper, red cousin, I grab it, segregate it from all the other fruit and vegetables in the shopping cart, and rush it home before it begins to show the slightest blush of pink.  If I am not going to use it immediately, I put it in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process, while the red tomatoes sit out on the counter at room temperature.

You've met these green tomatoes before.  I finally got around to frying them. 

3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup Sprite or 7-Up
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
dash each of salt and onion powder

canola oil for frying

First, get the tomatoes ready.  Slice them into just under 1/2 inch slices, 5 to 6 slices from each tomato.  Lay them out on a rack over the sink, and salt both sides using kosher salt.  Let them sit for a half hour, then rinse off the salt with cold water.  Pat the tomatoes as dry as possible with paper towels.  You can see that some of the tomatoes were turning red despite my best efforts.  Once a tomato is too far down the Communist road, don't bother to fry it.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and seasoning and then whisk in the Sprite until the mixture has a consistency like pancake batter.  Heat about an inch or two of oil in a deep skillet.  Dip each tomato slice into the batter, let the excess drip off, and slide the tomato into the hot oil.  Repeat with the other tomato slices, half at a time.  Fry until brown on each side and then remove to a rack placed over foil.  

I don't have a recipe for any particular dipping sauce, although we've used commercial creamy horseradish sauce when I've breaded the tomatoes during other high frying adventures.  This time, we tried something else, and it was a fabulous flavor fusion.

Definitely worth a trip to Georgia, even if it's not peach season.

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