Fried green tomatoes. If you’re not familiar with the dish, it’s exactly what it sounds like and it’s shockingly good. The frying softens the hard, unripe tomato and the fat balances its acidity. It’s a classic summer treat here in the southern U.S. but a great time to have it is in the fall, when you’ve got the last tomatoes on the vine that probably won’t be able to ripen before it gets too cold. This is a way to use them. Though around here they sell deliberately unripe tomatoes in the stores all year long, probably for this purpose. Don’t confuse them with tomatillos, though you could make this with tomatillos.
- Green tomatoes
- flour (I use Wondra)
- baking powder
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- mustard powder
- fresh parsley
- oil or bacon fat
- hot sauce
You generally put the tomato on its side and then slice. A quarter inch, half a centimeter, something like that. These ones from my garden are really underripe so I’m going on the thin side, just to make sure they get soft enough in the pan. One important thing though — always shave off the skin over the blossom end before you start cutting your slices. If you don’t, this will happen — the breading just doesn’t stick to such a wide area of smooth skin.
You could just pat those slices dry with a towel, or you could go the extra step of salting them for a bit to draw out some of the water. Just eyeball enough salt to season this much food really well. And something they do down South here sometimes is a little bit of sugar. Sugar draws out moisture too, and it’s amazing against the acidity of the tomato. Just get everything coated and leave it for 20 minutes. Look, you can already see them starting to weep there. While you wait you can make your dipping sauce. People usually have this with some kind of mayonnaise-based sauce like remoulade, or what I’m gonna do, which is a buttermilk sauce. If you’re gonna buy buttermilk for the traditional Southern breading, you might as well flavor your sauce with it, too. Maybe start with two parts mayo to one part buttermilk.
You could always thin it out some more, and for a dipping sauce to flavor something else it probably needs a stronger source of acidity, like lime juice. I’m doing lime. You could do vinegar. Do whatever spices you want. I’m just doing a bunch of pepper and some hot sauce. Stir it up. Taste it. Needs more lime. Needs more hot sauce. For the breading, you could start with normal flour, but I’m using Wondra, which is a brand of pre-gelatinized flour the makes very light, crispy breadings and batters. Not necessary, but I love it. For the wet stage, we’ll get an egg. And since I won’t need a whole egg’s worth I’m just putting in the white. Fried coatings come out a little crispier if you just use the white. And then in goes the buttermilk.
You could use regular milk. You could just use the egg. You could use no egg — just milk. Or soy milk. But if you use the egg, give it a good beating to get it loosened up. For the outer coat, a lot of people use fine breadcrumbs for a cakey effect, but I’m using more Wondra for a lighter flake. Again, you could use regular flour. But for the Southern touch you also gotta also use some cornmeal. Some people use only cornmeal. That gritty texture is kinda the Southern signature. And I’m using a little bit of baking powder. A lot of old Southern recipes call for self-rising flour or self-riding cornmeal — that would have baking powder in it. It gets you more of that flakey, tempura-like effect. Any seasonings you want. I’ve got garlic powder, onion powder, dried mustard, paprika, black pepper, and if you have it it’s always nice to put some fresh parsley or other herbs into breadings. They stay surprisingly green when they fry crispy.
I feel like tearing in big chunks of parsley today but you could chop it up super fine. And mix it all up. Even though the tomatoes are seasoned you might want a little salt in the outer breading, but I do not. Because instead of frying these in oil, which you absolutely could to, I’ma fry these in nice salty bacon fat, which is certainly one of the traditional ways. Just enough to have a good thick coating of fat for shallow frying. Medium heat. Look at all the water that came out of those tomatoes. I really think that weeping step gets you a nicer taste and a more satisfying, firmer texture.
Just make sure you dry them pretty thoroughly, before dusting them lightly with your flour, or Wondra, in my case. Then into the wet stage, and into the outer dry stage. I really dislike when these are just locked inside a solid, thick coating of breading. I really want more of that tempura vibe where you can see what the vegetable is through the breading. The coating is light and patchy. You get that by simply being very crude about this stage. Not being very thorough. And in the hot fat they go. They should give you a good sizzle. You could deep fry these instead, that would get you more of that solid, overall seal of breading. I’m not into that. And there’s no guesswork here.
Just fry them until they’ve softened bit and are brown to your liking. These took two or three minutes on each side. I would err on the side of cooking them less. I think they’re gross when the tomato flesh inside goes soft and mushy. I still want it a little bit crisp. Let them drain for minute but don’t let them sit too long. This is a fried wet thing. It needs to be eaten almost right away, or it won’t be crispy anymore. I like those big, irregular shards of breading and big leaves of crispy parsley. Heterogeneity! Speaking of which, you can dab some hot sauce in your dip there and then don’t stir it. It makes it so you can taste the little streaks of hot sauce in your mouth. Quite surpassingly good, that dish is. It’s like a fried pickle, but with a fresh taste. And again, fry in any fat that you wanna use. This can be a great meatless dish. But since I fried in bacon fat, I have some bacon. That’s a complete meal, right there. Breakfast of champions. It’s like a deconstructed BLT. Wouldn’t it be obnoxious if I called it that on a menu at a restaurant?