Southern Fried Green Tomatoes
When I see green tomatoes, I am reminded about the fried green tomatoes cooked at the late Betty Talmadge's farm called Lovejoy about 25 miles south of Atlanta. In the 1980s, Betty would stage these lavish southern-themed dinner parties for friends and clients. And thanks to her cook Cile, she offered fried green tomatoes by the bucketful.
I once walked back into the insanely busy kitchen in the middle of one of these parties, and there was Cile, pulling sliced green tomatoes from their bath of salted ice water. She would dredge them in a mixture of seasoned white cornmeal and flour, and then fry until crispy. Her trick was to place the fried tomatoes along the inside walls of colanders to let them drain off grease but stay delicious and crispy. My friend Nathalie Dupree told me the colander has long been used to drain fried chicken and green tomatoes. It was "an excellent rural solution for all fried foods."
Nathalie remembers fried green tomatoes served with white gravy alongside chicken-fried steak. She thinks of them as a food of fall, and she says they are best fried and eaten "right out of the pan." Dupree likes a combination of cornmeal and flour on a pie plate for dredging, just like Cile used, but instead of oil she likes to sauté in butter. "I like the crisp edginess" that butter gives to the frying.
SOUTHERN FRIED GREEN TOMATOES RECIPE:
Serves: 4 (12 to 18 slices) | Prep: 15 to 20 minutes | Soak: 2 hours or overnight | Cook: 4 minutes per batch
3 to 4 medium-size green tomatoes, peeled
4 cups (1 quart) cold water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups ice cubes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
Slice the tomatoes into about 4 slices each. Set aside. Place the cold water in a large mixing bowl and stir in salt. Add ice cubes. Place the tomato slices in the salted ice water, and place the uncovered bowl in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 2 hours.
When ready to fry, remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Pour off the water, and drain the tomato slices. Pat them dry with paper towels. Place the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper in a shallow dish or pie plate, and stir to combine. Dredge the tomatoes in the mixture, coating well on all sides. Place on a baking sheet in the fridge or freezer while you heat the oil.
Place enough oil in a large cast-iron skillet to measure 1 inch up the side of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat until 350 degrees, or until a pinch of the cornmeal mixture sizzles. Remove the tomato slices from the fridge, and carefully drop three or four slices at a time into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the slices to a colander or wire rack to drain. Once drained, keep warm on a baking sheet in a 200-degree oven.