Yesterday, I told you of our adventures grinding meal from corn we gleaned in a nearby field. Today, I’ll share what we did with it.
Originally, I was thinking of making a classic cornbread to see how the texture would compare to using store-bought meal, but bright green tomatoes at the farmer’s market changed that plan completely.
Ever since seeing Fried Green Tomatoes in the mid nineties, I’ve wanted to try my hand at making my own, and I am so glad I did! The method is simple, just prep the tomatoes, apply the coating, then fry ‘em up. Dress them with hot sauce or sour cream with a bit of cayenne stirred in if you choose, but I like them just as they are. Salty and crunchy on the outside and warm and tender in the middle, these puppies are a serious treat.
- 4 large, firm green tomatoes
- Kosher salt
- Bacon fat, canola oil, or other high-smoke-point oil for frying
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cups coarsely-ground corn meal (you may need slightly less if using store-bought corn meal)
- Rinse tomatoes and pat dry. Using a serrated knife, cut the tomatoes into 1/3-inch thick slices. The coating will adhere best to the exposed tomato flesh, and as a result, I recommend setting aside the odd-shaped, skin-covered ends of the tomatoes for another use. Season both sides of the tomato slices with kosher salt and set them aside to rest and release their moisture while you prepare the remaining ingredients. This will help prevent the final product from being soggy.
- In a large cast iron skillet or electric skillet, add enough oil to have a 1/3 inch depth. Heat over medium-high heat until bubbles form around the handle of a wooden spoon when inserted into the oil.
- Meanwhile, combine the flour and pepper in a shallow bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten eggs and milk. Finally, in a third bowl, place the cornmeal.
- When the oil is hot, dredge each tomato slice in the flour-pepper mixture, then dip it into the egg and milk, and lastly, coat it with cornmeal. You may choose to process all tomatoes at once before frying, but I prefer to take each tomato through the coating process individually just before adding it to the skillet.
- Carefully place the cornmeal-coated tomatoes slices in the hot oil and fry 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. If the tomatoes are browning too quickly, turn down the heat slightly; if they are not getting good color by the end of 2-3 minutes, you may need to increase the heat. For best results, fry in small batches with plenty of room around each tomato slice.
- After the tomatoes have been cooked on both sides, carefully remove them to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with salt. To maintain the crispiness of the crust, I recommend setting up a few plates if needed instead of stacking the tomatoes. Serve warm as is, with a dash of hot sauce, or a dollop of cayenne-spiced sour cream.
Tips and Tidbits
- The straightforward flavor of tomatoes and cornmeal is scrumptious on its own, but feel free to jazz things up by adding seasonings like smoked paprika or granulated garlic to the flour mixture. For a lighter crust, try reducing the amount of cornmeal by half and substituting in ½ cup flour.
- As mentioned in the recipe, the coating has a tendency to try and fall off the skin of the tomatoes. If you want, you can peel them with a serrated peeler before slicing. And if you’re looking for a way to prepare those unused ends, try adding them to a fresh salad or roasting them with onions, garlic, and peppers for an easy salsa.
- Salt is an amazing ingredient, used for everything from seasoning to preserving, and when added to certain foods, it helps the cell walls to relax, allowing moisture to be released. In the case of fried green tomatoes, this is desirable to ensure a crispy result. It also comes in handy when caramelizing onions (helps the onions break down more quickly) and when preparing cucumber salads (moisture can be released before assembling the salad to help prevent a pool of juice in the bottom of the serving dish).