September 16, 2012

{Recipe} Fried Green Tomatoes!

Posted by Ethne~

Well, Friends, you’ve asked for it; you’ve been waiting for it; the season is finally here and the time has come for…FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!

Whit, Mom and I made fried green tomatoes for my birthday dinner

If you’re thinking these are the breaded or battered kind you get at the State Fair, you can stop reading now and come back tomorrow.  But that’d be a shame because these are 1000% better than those.  They have BACON and GRAVY.  That’s right.

Thrifty Nana (my mom) has always grown tomatoes.  I don’t ever remember our garden not having tomatoes in it.  Besides fried green tomatoes, our other favorite is a BLT.  Do you see a theme here?  It’s called bacon.

Grandpa Paul (my dad) has been a Custer buff (as in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876) his whole life – check out this Amazon link to his latest book After Custer, which is in its 2nd hardcover printing!  And this means my whole life.  Interpretation: my childhood was spent visiting the battlefields of the Great Sioux War rather than Disney World.  Eventually Whit and I wizened up and decreed that for every hour of museum/battlefield time, we were to receive the equivalent hour of mall time.  Fair trade, which they made good on, knowing we would make their lives living hell if they did not.  Such shrewd children.  The point is that TN is a very good cook and, being married to a Custer buff, she found and made George A. Custer’s favorite food: fried green tomatoes.

If you are a friend of mine, I’ve likely made this recipe for you.  Here it is:

*Large green tomatoes.  [We tend to like the ones that are turning slightly red, though those ones don’t hold up as well to the frying, so be aware of that.]

*Bacon – 6-10 slices
*Bacon drippings (the grease and crumbles from cooking the bacon)
*Olive or canola oil
*All-purpose unbleached flour
*Salt & pepper

We made this batch on my birthday and because we wanted to spend time out on the deck being lazy/hanging out, we fried the bacon and tomatoes in the convection oven, so those will be some of the pictures, but I’ll explain the directions in the regular frying pan style.  If you have a cast iron frying pan, use that – its is second to none!

Cook up your bacon in strips like you normally would in a frying pan – over medium heat until it is crispy but not burnt.  Allow it to cool on a plate and paper towel (to absorb a little grease).  Chop it up into little bits and set aside.  Set aside your frying pan and grease.

On a large plate, put a generous cup of flour – it doesn’t have to be exact.  Stir in a tablespoon of salt and several grinds of black pepper.

Heat your bacon grease in the frying pan (use the same one that you used before) to medium/medium-high heat.  The heat isn’t an exact science, Friends, and I’m sorry about that.  If your stove says that medium is a 4 and medium-high is a 6, try for a 5.  You are frying the tomatoes, and the oil will pop, but you don’t want to burn them, so you don’t want the heat too high, either.  If you don’t have a full ¼” of bacon grease covering the bottom of your frying pan, add some canola or olive oil (lard would be even better, but we didn’t use that…) so you fry things up properly.

Slice up the tomatoes to about ½” thick.  You can use the ends, too, just cut out the tough core where the stem attached.  Dip each side in the flour mixture – the moisture on the tomato will make the flour stick to it.

Envision this is a frying pan

The oil should be nice and hot by now.  Carefully place in the tomato slices until the pan is full.  If you have to make more than one batch, no biggie.  They don’t take that long to cook, so the first batch won’t get too cold while you cook the second batch.  If you're worried, put a piece of tin foil over the plate.

Cook the tomato slices, without moving them, for about five minutes, until you see the moisture in the tops of the tomatoes start to bubble.  At this point, carefully check the bottoms of the tomato to see if they are browning up.  If so, gently flip them to the other side and brown that side.  If not, allow the first side to brown a little longer. 

See the moisture in the front?  That's the tomato juice starting to bubble.  This will happen in the frying pan too.

When both sides are browned, GENTLY remove the browned tomatoes from the pan and put on a plate.  These will be flimsy, Friends.  You have just fried up tomatoes, not chicken drumsticks; they are delicate.

See how the green one in the middle held its shape better?

You may find that you have to add a little extra oil to the pan as you fry the tomatoes.  Do so.  You don’t want the pan to dry up or you will burn the tomatoes and you won’t be *frying* things anymore.  Pointless.

After all the tomatoes are fried and resting on their serving plate, pour off 80% of the remaining oil in the pan, but not the crumbs and drippings at the bottom of the pan – that’s FLAVOR.  Keeping the pan on the stove over medium-low heat, to the remaining oil and crumbs, add about 2 tablespoons of your flour/salt/pepper mixture.  Stir it around until it is all moistened by the oil.  This is called a roux and is the base of a white gravy.  Get out your milk (whatever kind you use is fine – we use 1%) and pour in about 1 cup.  Stir this around – it will become like a gravy, but possibly still too thick.  Add in a little more milk.  Stir it around.  Keep doing this until you get a gravy-like consistency.  You know what gravy is like, so aim for that.  Don’t add too much milk at a time, though, or it will be too thin for the flour to hold it together thickened.  Now add the bacon bits and let it bubble a minute or two until the bacon bits are warmed up.

Stirring in the flour
Now with 1% milk

Pour the glorious bacon gravy over your fried green tomatoes and serve up immediately.

This is the only after shot that was taken.

You may be skeptical.  Well, think about it like this:  1) I consider my birthday the BEST DAY OF THE WHOLE YEAR (tied with the birth of my children now), and this is a meal I chose to have; 2) We have blog readers who know me from decades past who have requested this recipe; and 3) this recipe is at least 140 years old, and likely much older.  If it’s hung around this long, it’s probably pretty effing good.  TRUST ME ON THIS.  You’re welcome.

Whit and I did a little photo session with Theodore.  He LOVED it.

NOTE: I’d like to take this opportunity to note that I wrote a thesis in college about the negative parts of American history and the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Great Sioux War are certainly some of those.  The reason we have national parks that remember such places and events encourages us to reflect on this – unlike countries ruled by dictatorships which whitewash (or worse) the ugly sides of their history, our government wants us to remember the bad with the good.  I remember walking battlefields in lonely Montana pastures and gullies as a kid, where as far as the eye could see, there was nothing; but as far as my mind could see, there were tons of places for the “Soldiers” and “Indians” to hide as my little kid imagination tried to picture that a war (in America?!?) had actually taken place there.  My dad’s latest book talks about what happened after Custer’s fall at the Battle of the Little Bighorn:  the buffalo were decimated, American Indians were placed on reservations and the railroad connected the continent [among many other things, read the book].  110 years later, two little girls named Ethne and Whitney would scare wildlife for miles across the eastern Montana plains if one of them caught sight of a wood tick, and that would be the end of battlefield scouring for the day.  So let’s remember and celebrate the negative history (such as 9/11) in our country and acknowledge each and every day how blessed we are that our government (for all its failings, and no matter whom you plan to vote for in November – this is not a political blog thankyouverymuch) will come out *with us* on the other side all the better for having done so, and hopefully having learned from some mistakes.  Now go eat some yummy historical food.

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