Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fried Okra, Southern Style

I know I have mentioned fried okra here and for the life of me thought I had posted a recipe. I did a search and see I was having another 'senior moment'. There is probably no other food more Southern than fried okra with exception of maybe grits. That being said, if you aren't familiar with fried okra then you should be. It makes a great side dish and is actually a good snack as well. There are loads of recipes out there and I am sure each family has their own but this one is the one I grew up on more or less, simple and very tasty. This is what is known as a pan fried okra and not a deep fried okra. There are many who batter and deep fry okra and they are welcome to do so but this method is more traditional I think. This fried okra will even make people who swear they don't like okra change their minds. Another cool thing is that you can do all the coating of the okra and just freeze it in a single layer for later bagging and then pull out the okra for cooking when you need it. If you are a gardener you know what I mean by freezing for later. When the okra starts coming in it comes fast. It keeps in the freezer like a champ when it is coated like this.

This recipe makes enough for 6 or 8 folks but you can adjust it with no problem.

4 cups peanut or canola oil for frying
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk or regular milk but I like buttermilk
2 cups cornmeal preferably stone ground, I use yellow but white works but just fine don't use self-rising however.
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste
2 pounds fresh okra, stemmed and sliced into 1/2 to 3/4 inch rounds

You're going to have to fry in batches so its a good idea to get an oven warmed to about 225 degrees or so.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy bottomed pot like a dutch oven or casserole until the oils reaches 375 degrees on a candy thermometer.
While your oil is heating whisk together the eggs, a few dashes of hot sauce and buttermilk milk in a largish bowl(you'll be adding the okra too). In another bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, and pepper together, making sure it is well mixed. Add the okra to the egg mixture and toss until it is evenly coated. Scatter half the cornmeal mix over the okra and toss to coat, after its well coated add the rest of the mix and toss again. The okra should be evenly coated.

Note: if you are adjusting the volumes in this recipe you may wind up with a little extra egg mixture after all the okra is well coated and in that case just drain it off. You don't want the okra sitting in a pool when you add the cornmeal mixture.

In order to keep from crowding the pan and cooling the oil too much you should cook in three batches. Use a slotted cooking spoon to put one-third of the okra into the oil turn as necessary with the slotted spoon until the slices are golden brown all over. If your oil is the right temperature it shouldn't take but about 2 minutes per batch.
Again with the slotted spoon, put the cooked okra on a plate lined with a couple of layers of paper towels to drain. After it has drained, move it to an oven proof serving dish serving dish and keep in the oven until ready to serve. I usually sprinkle a little kosher salt on the okra as it comes out of the oil.
It is pretty common for people to use hot sauce (Tabasco) on their fried okra in the South but pepper vinegar is good too(You'll see it in the stores...a little bottle stuffed with small peppers and vinegar.)

I should note that there are some that say you should just use the slime from the sliced okra to make the cornmeal stick but I don't think it keeps enough cornmeal on...but whatever.

UPDATE: Not that I am implying you lack imagination but I am cooking okra tonight but instead of using all okra I am mixing in Japanese eggplant and some peppers. You can do the same. Instead of all okra mix in something else for variety. I've got both eggplant and okra coming out my ears and boatloads of peppers. I'll add a salad of cucumber, onion and tomato. Not scads of protein but a satisfying meal. If you want more protein there is always tofu. Just cube it(use firm) and bread it and fry it with the okra and whatever else.

1 comment:

Georgia said...

Thank you so much for your recipe and personal comments. My 92 year old dad is bringing okra from his garden this morning for me to cook for him for Father's Day. It's been a long time since I fried okra, and, luckily for me, your site has brought me quickly back up to speed.Of course it had to be Southern. He lives in Bryan, TX, and I, in Waco. And, btw, I'd never read JFK's quote before. I love it!