Monday, August 14, 2006

Chive Talkin’ - Southern Style

When I lived in the deep south, I tried turtle soup, jambalaya, hush puppies, we had red beans and rice every day for lunch (every single day at school for several years), we caught craw dads (crawfish) in the drainage ditches in our front yards, we had spicy hot andouille sausages, and gumbos with all sorts of shell fish, and literally buckets of shrimp cooked up in flavored broth and peeled and eaten over newspaper by the hundreds.

But I never had a fried green tomato.

Maybe that was more of a Carolina thing, or some other part of the south. We were in the middle of a swamp just outside of New Orleans.

Or maybe we just never stumbled over it. Or just never recognized it as being something to try, being transplanted Northerners and all.

But I’ve heard a lot about them since. And since that movie of the same name came out some years ago, they have become something of a cult item.

So we tried making some a few weeks ago. I didn’t blog about it as the result was tasty but not so picture-worthy. Mainly as the breading all fell off.

On the weekend, we were confronted with some heirloom green tomatoes. Never heard of such critters before. But there they were. The guy who sold them to us at the farmer’s market said they were special, and he wanted some feedback on the taste next week (probably just a trick to get us to visit his stand again, but let’s not be cynical!). So we looked for a more substantial, authentic preparation.

The trick, as I see it after looking at a few dozen recipes, is the old triple coating trick – first a light dusting of flour, then an egg wash, then the actual cornmeal breading. The first dusting of flour sort of binds with the moisture in the tomato, both creating an adhesive for the egg wash and keeping too much moisture from loosening the final coating. The egg wash and the cornmeal coating are what actually get fried up into a crispy shell encasing the now softened green tomato.

Well, because these were special heirloom green tomatoes, I wanted to sort of dress things up a bit. So I added some spice to the breading – cayenne pepper, cumin, chili powder, and chives. And I thought the tomatoes would go well with some roasted red peppers. That the flavors would be complementary.

I didn’t want to put a dressing or sauce on top, which would kill the crunch of the fried tomatoes, so I made a simple tomato concasse, again with some chives in it, as a sort of under-dressing.

And TeenGirl arranged the whole thing on some chives such that the crisp fried tomatoes didn’t actually sit in the sauce, preserving the crunch as much as possible.

The result was a delicious to eat as it was beautiful to look at.

The crispy fried tomatoes contrasted very well with the roasted red peppers. The crunchy cornmeal crust made a nice contrast to the silk smooth peppers and the now fairly soft and warm tomato. The chives always add a nice spice, as well as color.

The heirloom tomato itself had a nice flavor. A slight tang of acidity, and a mild tomato flavor. With a firm texture. Firmer than other green tomatoes we had tried earlier, with more flesh and less seeds. And naturally, they held up better to the cooking, and post-cooking manipulations, better because of it.

I don’t know if we did them up right. But they were delicious. And all in all, not too hard to make.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Roasted Pepper and Chives
Recipe adapted from lots I found on the internet, plus my own additions, by surfindaave
Serves 4 as an appetizer

2 large green tomatoes, cored, thinly slice off both ends, then cut each tomato into 4 thick slices
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white flour, divided
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
vegetable oil for frying
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
tomato concasse (recipe follows)
8 pieces of roasted red pepper
fresh cut chives as garnish

Preheat an oven to 200 degrees F ( 93 C)

In a shallow bowl, combine the egg and the milk. Place ½ cup plain white flour in one plate. Place the remaining 1.2 cup white flour, the corn meal, and all the herbs and spices in a second plate, and combine well. Have a third plate ready.

Dip each tomato slice first into the plain flour, coating completely, and shaking off the excess. Dip each tomato slice into the egg wash, and then set into the corn meal plate. Cover each slice completely with the corn meal, pressing lightly so as much will adhere as possible. Place each breaded tomato slice on the third plate.

Heat the oil in a skillet to 360ºF. Have an oven proof plate covered in paper towels ready. Carefully place each tomato slice in the oil (fry in batches). Fry for 4-6 minutes on one side, checking to see when it is browned, then carefully turn the slices, and brown on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Remove the fried slices to the plate with the paper towels. Place the plate in the oven while the remaining batch is cooked.

Spread some of the tomato concasse 4 small serving plates. Arrange two of the tomato slices and two of the roasted pepper slices on each plate. Sprinkle with additional chives, if desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Tomato Concasse
Recipe by surfindaave

6 roma tomatoes
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper

In a food processor, puree the tomatoes. Push the tomatoes through a sieve into a heavy pot. Add the chives and salt and pepper to the pot, and reduce the tomato mixture over high heat until about ½ of the original volume. Let cool. Check seasoning.

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Blogger Kalyn said...

They look fabulous. I've only had fried green tomatoes in restaurants, and they didn't look as beautiful as these.

7:40 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Kalyn - thanks! TeenGirl gets the credit for the wonderful arrangement! She has a real eye for for this, not to mention a lot more patience that I have!

9:27 AM  
Anonymous coffeepot said...

Wow! I love fried green tomato but I've never had any that looked that good.

3:17 PM  

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