Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan

I may be a Louisiana girl, but contrary to Southern code I do not fry everything I eat. However, when I stumbled upon the most gorgeous, flawless okra I'd ever laid eyes on I couldn't help but throw caution to the wind and frying pan. The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook is quickly becoming my down-home comfort food Bible. Their chile dusted fried okra —dipped in peppered vinegar, no less— was such a hit they will definitely serve as my next cocktail party staple.

Crispy Fried Okra
Prep Time: 30 minutes; Makes: 2 pounds [enough for 6 to 8 as a side dish and 12 for snacking]

4 cups peanut or canola oil
2 large eggs, beaten
¾ cup whole milk
2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds fresh okra, sliced into 16-inch-thick rounds [about 7 cups]
Crushed red pepper flakes [optional]
Sea salt [optional]

Preheat the oven to 225°F.

Heat oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a 3-quart enameled cast-iron casserole until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 375°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until they are well combined, about 1 minute. In a medium bowl, sift the cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper together twice. Add the okra to the egg mixture and toss until it is evenly coated. Scatter half the dredge over the okra and toss to coat. Scatter the remaining dredge over the okra and toss again.

Transfer about one-third of the okra to the oil with a slotted spoon and fry in batches, turning as necessary with the spoon, until the slices are golden brown all over, about 2 minutes per batch.

Using the slotted spoon, transfer the okra to a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels. When it has drained, transfer to a ceramic serving dish that holds heat well and place in the oven until ready to serve.

Dust the okra with red pepper flakes and sea salt, if desired, and pass a cruet of Pepper Vinegar* around the table when you serve.

*For an extra kick, I often use Pepper Vinegar when cooking. Simply add a few bird's-eye chiles into a cruet of white wine vinegar. The vinegar will be infused in 24 hours and keep for months in the refrigerator.

[photo via Hugging the Coast.]


beki said...

I rarely fry anything, but reading this post might just make me break out my cast iron skillet! My goodness, my mouth is wateing just thinking about it.

TKTC said...

This sounds fantastic and I'm loving the vinegar trick!

Anonymous said...

Yum! But 2 pounds is only a single serving!

Stacie Frazier - Haute Shots said...

Wow, posts like these definitely make me miss the small town in Texas I had a brief stay in. Might have to whip these up soon to satisfy my southern cravings!