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The Times
  • Kitchen Call: Fry up those green tomatoes

  • With the first frost around the corner, gardeners are rushing to gather up every last bit of backyard homegrown goodness. Very few tomatoes will continue to soak up enough sun to ripen to a deep red or gold, and so they end up on the compost heap.

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  • With the first frost around the corner, gardeners are rushing to gather up every last bit of backyard homegrown goodness. Very few tomatoes will continue to soak up enough sun to ripen to a deep red or gold, and so they end up on the compost heap.
    Southern cooks refuse accept that so easily. They glory a fresh tomato, whatever the color. The green ones get coated in cornmeal and fried up for a snack, as a side dish or tucked into a sandwich. Fried green tomatoes are so revered, so romanticized, that a popular novel and a movie bear the same name.
    A cooler climate has not deterred me from frying up the greens. They have become an annual indulgence just before autumn weather sets in.
    Word of warning here: The cooking medium for authentic fried green tomatoes is rendered bacon fat. Get over it! These are a once-a-year treat. The word “treat” signifies that they are not eaten often. Treats, as in candy bars, are not daily fare. If that is such a sticking point, you can use a neutral oil, like canola, instead, but they won’t taste the same. I will admit to using a combination of both cornmeal and bacon fat. The canola oil spread the flavor of the bacon a bit better.
    My first efforts at these treats — there’s that word again — were failures. The coating fell off, and the cornmeal didn’t cook thoroughly. Then I found that applying a classic chef’s technique to the original recipe did the trick.
    In the professional kitchen, “standard breading procedure” is a method of creating a dry surface on the item to be coated. Then an egg wash adheres easily. The egg wash, in turn, holds the outer coating of cornmeal. (A few drops of Tabasco into the egg wash adds some spicy heat.)
    After all the tomatoes are coated, I put them on a sheet pan in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. This prevents the coating from falling off during frying. (Note: Some cornmeal will always fall off into the pan: spoon it out if you can so it doesn’t burn.)
    Once the tomatoes are done, they taste best eaten right away while still hot. If you want to put them in the sandwich, add those strips of bacon that the fat was rendered from, and slather a little mayonnaise on the bread or roll, which you line with nice crunchy lettuce.
    My latest over-the-top effort was to turn them into a bacon-lettuce-fried-green-tomato-grilled-cheese sandwich. Definitely an annual event only. But one so happily anticipated and enjoyed.
    FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
    Makes 6 servings
    My recipe calls for more flour and cornmeal than is needed. It’s easier to coat the tomato slices with a little extra of each on the plate. If making this for someone on a gluten-free diet, substitute cornflour for the wheat flour. The texture is nearly the same.
    Page 2 of 2 - 5 to 6 large green tomatoes
    1 cup flour
    1 large or 2 medium eggs plus 1 tablespoon water
    1 cup yellow cornmeal
    1 teaspoon salt
    rendered fat from 2 to 4 slices bacon
    salt & ground black pepper, to taste
    1. Slice tomatoes crosswise in thick slices. Salt; set aside to drain extra juices.
    2. While the tomatoes drain, set up three plates or bowl in a line: the first will hold flour seasoned with salt and pepper; in the second, beat 1 or 2 eggs with a tablespoon of water; and, the third will hold the cornmeal.
    3. Dredge tomato slices in each mixture, consecutively, shaking off any excess. When the tomatoes are coated, set aside on a plate.
    4. Heat the bacon fat in a large skillet. Add coated tomato slices and cook, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Work in batches; do not overcrowd the pan or the tomatoes will steam and be missing their exterior crunch. Keep the finished tomatoes warm in the oven until all tomatoes are cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
    Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by e-mail at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.
     
     
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