Tuesday, October 22, 2013

At 4:30pm, I had already finished dinner

I've always told people I was an 85 year old man, but up until last Monday I was joking... mostly. It is true that when my dad drove me to school in high school I would ask him to turn down the music, and I'm happier playing cribbage than doing most things, but today I put the final nail in the coffin.

aaaand just realized the connotation of that phrasing. Ten points for Becca!

It's a good thing I'm not actually an octogenarian, because my coronaries might explode if I ate dinner like this ever again. It started off in such a innocent and wholesome way, too - one minute I'm picking tomatoes (from an actual plant! outside my door!) and next thing I know I'm switching out milk for half and half and putting mayonnaise on a fried-thing and egg sandwich. Oops.

My mom planted what seemed like half a produce aisle out back the second week of the summer. Within 48 hours, rabbits had eaten everything* but a singular tomato plant, which I completely forgot existed until last week. That gets me to last Monday, when while waiting on my boss to call (and procrastinating on my practice midterm) I realized I was hungry. The government may have been shut down and it may have been a national holiday, but I had two conference calls, statistics to learn and a stomach. Adulthood! Adulthood?

* technically they did not eat the mothballs we put in to deter them, although they did eat the supposedly rabbit-repelling plants we bought originally.


I've made fried green tomatoes before - even once this summer - but never really been satisfied with the results. It was something different every time- the general unpleasantness I feel whenever a recipe calls for buttermilk, too little cornmeal, too much cornmeal, WAY too much cornmeal (think sandpaper). I had an impossible idea in my head- something I had a restaurant once, something my dad told me about his mother making, some recipe that would remind me of watching the movie with my own mother. More specifically, I wanted a perfectly crispycrunchy exterior to gave way to a just-softened, lemony green tomato. I ask so little.

You see where this is going, right?

Ironically, I was trolling the internet for a non-fried way to eat green tomatoes when I found a copy of the recipe from the Lee Bro's Southern Cookbook. I'm enough of a nerd to know about that cookbook's reputation, so I got out the cast iron skillet and retrieved my frying oil from under the sink. I know when I'm beaten. I'm going to get to the actual cooking, but first let me say this: when you are finished, eat the tomatoes. Do not, under any circumstances, go looking for that hardboiled egg you'd forgotten about. Do not toast bread. Do not make Sriracha mayonnaise, or add thin slices of cheddar cheese. DO NOT MAKE A SANDWICH! 

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Adapted from the Lee Bro's Southern Cookbook, original recipe posted here

I don't generally believe in sifting, an opinion I was delighted to discover was shared by this awesome pro. Here, however, there's a lot of salt and pepper, and cornmeal that needs to be distributed; sifting does a better job mixing it all up. A whisk would probably work just fine. Secondly, since I successfully subbed a couple ingredients out, I'm giving options below. 

Oh, and people know green tomatoes are just raw regular tomatoes, right? Not funny heirloom ones? Just in case.

3-4 medium green tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk, half and half, or whatever liquid dairy product you have around
2 eggs
~3 cups peanut or canola oil 

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornmeal
3 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons ground black pepper (if you can make it fresh, it's worth it!)

Slice the tomatoes 1/4 inch thick, and whisk the eggs and milk together in a shallow bowl. Either sift the flour, cornmeal salt and pepper together twice OR whisk the mixture very thoroughly. Turn out onto a flat surface. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil. In a 12-inch cast iron (or otherwise heavy metal) skillet, heat ~1/3 inch of oil over medium heat. If you have a candy thermometer (seriously. who owns one?) it should hit 365 degrees. If you're me, test the oil either by tossing in a small piece of bread or dipping the end of a wooen spoon in the oil. If you go with bread (which I did, above), the sizzling should be distinct but not volcanic.

Dredge tomatoes. Press a slice in the flour/cornmeal mixture, once on each side, and shake off the excess. Dump it in the egg mixture, then fish it out and dredge/shake a again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you're smart, you'll dredge 3-4 slices (the number my cast iron skillet could handle in once batch) and the dredge the second batch while the first is frying. I wasn't that smart.

Finally, fry! Each tomato will take 1-2 minutes per side (I like tongs for flipping) to get a good golden brown color, but the exact time with vary with the heat of your oil. Remember, the more stuff you try to fry at once, the faster your oil cools down. Drain on paper towels, and eat immediately.

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