Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

As our summer winds down, I find myself with a tomato plant that was in the process of getting a second wind, but not enough sun and warmth to ripen the green tomatoes... what better time to try out fried green tomatoes? I had never had them before, but had heard many swoon over how good they were. There is rarely something fried that doesn't taste good, so I thought I would give it a shot. I had also had some bacon cheddar bread that I brought home so I was beginning to envision, Fried Green Tomato BLT's. After all is said and done I don't think a fried green tomato should be held back in a sandwich, but rather left to be on their own, because they are THAT good! They are firm and slightly tart, but the frying brings out an addictive sweetness and the breading with some panko and cornmeal gives a delicate crunch. Yum! The rest of the post will be just about frying the tomatoes and not the sandwich itself. I really liked how the pictures came out though and wanted to post them all.

The following directions are what you could call standard breading procedures you could use to fry all sorts of vegetables, chicken, ect. The first step is to dredge the item in flour, then into an egg wash, and finally into its outer coating, may that be cornmeal, panko or other bread crumb or perhaps a batter... The first coat of flour sticks easily to the product but also guarantees that when dipped in the egg wash, that too will stick which you need so what ever it's finally rolled in will also evenly adhere to the product. While this may seem tedious, it will result in an even crunchy coating over the product being fried, well worth the extra steps.

Fried Green Tomatoes:
You want to start with a high quality flavorful tomato that is green because it hasn't fully ripened yet. Do not start with a tomato that is green even when ripe- those aren't the kind of "green tomatoes we are talking about. Evenly slice the tomato into 1/2" slices. You want to make sure they are thick enough to stand up to the breading and frying without breaking, but not so thick that they don't have a chance to fully cook through. After they are sliced, sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the tomato. The key in flavorful fried products is to season every step, not just at the end by sprinkling on salt. After the tomatoes are sliced and seasoned, begin to assemble your breading station. Start with three containers, or bowls that will easily accommodate your largest tomato slice being able to lie flat in the bottom. In the first bowl you will have your flour. Start with about 1 1/2 cups of flour* add about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper to the flour (and maybe a little cayenne or paprika if you want things spicy). The next dish will have your egg wash. Start with 3 eggs and about 1/4 cup of milk. Beat together until all the egg is broken up and the milk is mixed in. The last container will have 2 cups of panko (a japanese bread crumb)** and about 1/4 cup cornmeal with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. After the breading station is set, start heating up some oil. I used my cast iron skillet but any heavy duty pot will do. Pour enough oil so that it comes about 2" up the side of the skillet. Heat the oil to about 365 degrees. Keep an eye on the oil to make sure it doesn't get really hot by using a fry thermometer or a candy thermometer. As your oil is heating, set up the station. As you can see in the picture above, I have the containers lined up- flour first, then egg, then panko. Start breading your tomatoes, dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into the egg wash, shaking off any excess and place in the panko conainer. Gently turn it over and shake the dish slightly to make sure everything gets coated. Be careful to not disturb the breading as you place it from dish to dish and as you finish set them on a cooling rack. I would advise getting them all breaded before frying. Then place that rack close to the stove and fry about 4 slices at a time (depending on how big your skillet is- if you can hold more, add a few more). When you are adding cold product to the oil the temperature drops dramatically, so make sure you don' t crowd the pan, and you may want to temporairly turn up the heat to let the oil recover.

After they become golden brown on the first side, flip them over and continue frying until golden brown on the second. After they come out of the oil have a paper lined sheet pan ready for them to sit on (as pictured down below). Don't put more tomatoes in the oven until the oil has gotten back up to the right temperature. Serve right away, plain or with maybe an herbed aioli? Enjoy!

Now that you have the basic breading procedure feel free to play around, the final breading doesn't always have to be panko, it could be all cornmeal or coconut or a mixture of things, the sky is the limit!

* this was written with the amounts to fry enough slices from about 4 medium large tomatoes. If you are frying more, increase the breading amounts.
** Panko is fairly easy to find these days, it is superior for frying because it doesn't easily get soggy. You could easily substitute dried bread crumbs for panko.

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