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.]