Friday, August 21, 2009

Fried Green Tomatoes, Two Ways



A few days ago my husband and I decided to take a little break and check out an area known as the "Redneck Riviera." Our plan was to get a crab cake, sit by the water, drink some cold beer, and eavesdrop on conversations held entirely in strange Mid-Atlantic accents.  It was a huge success.

Tooling around afterwards, we spotted a sign that read "This way to the baby goats." Now, when it comes to the possibility of petting baby animals, you don't have to ask us twice. We followed a series of such signs, and after several twists and turns on country roads - and only a tiny, nagging worry that we were about to be abducted and perhaps even eaten - we arrived at a small family farm.  The goats, naturally, were adorable. But we found something even more exciting, something we had all but given up on.
Tomatoes. Glorious bushels of them. Heirlooms, salad, yellow, red, and beautiful, shiny, firm green ones, just begging to be fried:

Because of the horrible tomato blight affecting the East Coast, I've been doing my best to sublimate all of my summer dreams of heirloom tomato sandwiches, homemade salsa, and fried green tomatoes.  But no more. I am in the throes of a tomato frenzy, and there's no end in sight.  

I have been craving fried green tomatoes ever since I had some delicious ones  at the Creole Tomato Festival in New Orleans this past June, so I couldn't wait to make some for myself. I even had some leftover remoulade, a classic accompaniment for this dish. 

We also had some fresh sweet corn from our CSA, and I'd been planning to make maque choux with it. Maque choux is a  southern Louisiana dish with bell pepper, onion, tomato and, of course, fresh corn. I had a feeling that the crunchy sweet corn would match perfectly with the tart gooey insides of the green tomatoes, and I was right. 

Fried Green Tomatoes, Two Ways

For the tomatoes:
3 firm green tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch slices
All-purpose flour, about a cup
One cup buttermilk
One cup (more or less) fine cornmeal, to which you've added a dash of cayenne and a pinch of salt and pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees in order to keep finished slices of tomato warm
Lightly salt and pepper the slices.
Then dip each slice first in the flour, followed by the buttermilk, then the cornmeal.
In a nonstick skillet, fry in batches  in the vegetable oil over medium high heat until brown and crunchy, about 3 minutes on each side. You may need to add more oil at some point if the pan gets too dry. The finished tomatoes should look like this:
For the Maque Choux:
(This recipe closely follows the one at the great site  Nolacuisine.com, with just a few changes.)

4 ears fresh sweet corn
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
1/2 large green pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
3-4 green onions, sliced
Creole or Cajun seasoning, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the corn from the cob.  Only slice off about half of the kernels. In a separate bowl, take a knife and scrape the cobs to get out all of the corn milk. Reserve the milk. (I learned this from Nola Cuisine. It makes all the difference.)
In a stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onion, celery, green pepper, and corn. Add about a tsp of the Creole seasoning,  a few pinches of salt, and some fresh ground pepper. Cook for roughly 15 minutes, stirring often.
Once the veggies are tender, add the garlic, tomatoes, corn milk, and more seasoning to taste. Cook for about another 15 minutes.

I had my husband frying the tomatoes while I kept an eye on the maque choux to make life easier; if you're doing it by yourself I suggest having everything prepped and  the maque choux halfway finished before you start frying the tomatoes.

To serve, I topped half of the tomato slices with maque choux and the other half with remoulade. You can use your favorite remoulade sauce, or check out my recipe.  Have fun and experiment with different sauces - fried green tomatoes are delicious vessels for a variety of toppings!






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