Food column as it appeared in the March issue of Satellite Magazine
While most of the nation must wait until August or September for in-season tomatoes, we get to enjoy fresh, local tomatoes for much of the year, including spring. Tart, sweet and complex in flavor, local tomatoes are worlds better than the tomatoes you'll often find at the supermarket. Growers in other states and countries breed supermarket tomatoes for transport and sacrifice flavor and texture for shipability. And even if the local tomatoes aren't quite ready, you can still work wonders with the green ones.
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 2 large green tomatoes sliced 1/4 - 1/3 inch thick
- 1/4 cup flour (for dredging)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup corn meal
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika (for depth of flavor)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Kosher salt
- fresh ground pepper
- Bacon (optional)
- 3 - 4 tablespoons cooking oil (if you forgo the bacon)
You'll want to get all the materials together on your countertop--flour, egg, corn meal--and then lightly salt each of the tomato slices. Once you begin frying, things move pretty quickly.
First, mix 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup corn meal, paprika and garlic powder in a bowl. Place the other 1/4 flour on a plate or similar surface. This will be used to dredge the tomato slices before coating them with the egg. Make sure the egg is in a bowl big enough to handle your tomato slices.
Traditionally, green tomatoes are fried in bacon fat. If you go that route, you can serve the tomatoes with a bacon garnish and present a simple, modern twist on the bacon and tomato sandwich (the lettuce was always just for show). However, you can use vegetable, peanut or canola oil and they'll still taste great. Just make sure you get an oil with a relatively high smoke point and neutral flavor.
If you go the bacon route, now's the time to fry up the bacon. Once it's done, set it aside and bring the heat up to medium-high. There should be enough fat or oil to fill the bottom of a heavy, medium-sized skillet. When the pan has come to temperature, begin by dredging the tomato slices through the flour. Just drag them through, enough to coat both sides. Dip the slices in the egg (again, enough to coat both sides) and drop them in the corn meal mix. Make sure they get a generous coating on all sides, then gently lay them in the hot oil. Fry them for about a minute on each side. DO NOT overcook the tomatoes. If you do, you'll end up with a mushy, tasteless mess.
When they're done cooking, remove them from the pan and lay on paper towels or a cooling rack to drain. To serve, place a single slice on a plate and garnish with crumbled bacon. Add a dollop of mayonnaise on the side. The singular tomato slice makes a great appetizer, especially in preparation for a mail like fried catfish. However, if you want to make a meal out of it, you can cook up some grits (please, avoid the instant ones -- quick cooking is fine), place them on a plate, and set the tomato slice on top. Garnish with crumbled bacon and sliced chives.