Fried Green Tomatoes and Homemade Ranch Dressing

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I am not a native Southerner by any stretch of the imagination. As the daughter of Greek immigrants raised in the cultural melting pot of South Florida, the closest I had come to Southern food prior to college was collard greens at a friend’s house (which I did not like, for the record). 

Once I moved to Tallahassee, Florida (which is in reality more Georgia than Florida in topography and culture), my exposure to Southern food increased. I developed an obsession with boiled peanuts at football games and the wonderful cook at my sorority house, Ms. Tessie, brought her North Carolina cooking with her to share with “her girls” (as she called us). She cooked fried chicken, chicken a la king, derby pie, and a host of other things I had never even heard of.

Even so, I had never had a fried green tomato. In fact, the only reason that I even knew fried green tomatoes existed was due to the movie of the same name. Towanda! I had forgotten about fried green tomatoes altogether (both the food and the movie) until I found myself at the farmer’s market staring at a huge bin of beautiful, firm green tomatoes.

On a whim, I bought one. And then it sat forgotten on my countertop for a week and wonder of wonders, the dang thing ripened on me. I had a dense moment where I didn’t realize that green tomatoes were just unripe red ones. I figured that they were a different type of tomato kind of like an heirloom is. Alas, I am ignorant in most things of this nature. And so the next week, I went to the farmer’s market again and vowed to cook the tomato while it was still green.

I failed again…but I did remember about my fried green tomato desires before it got fully ripe, so perhaps I should call this recipe Fried Green(ish) Tomatoes? Whew, that was a long-winded intro to this recipe. Let’s start with what you need. During my research of how to make fried green tomatoes, there is an overwhelming agreement from about 30 sources that there’s a single way to do this right. Here’s what you need:

  • 2 green tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying

Okay, in one shallow bowl, mix together the cornmeal, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. On a separate plate, add your flour.

Slice your tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. NOTE: the cooking process for these goes really, really fast. Truly, they take only about 30-60 seconds per side so once they’re in the pan, you need to pay attention lest they get too brown. With this in mind, I do all of the dipping before I even put a single one in the pan. Just line them up on a plate as you get them ready and then you can focus on cooking them in small batches.

The order of the dipping is (1) flour; (2) egg mixture; (3) cornmeal mixture.

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(Pretend you see a picture of me dipping the tomato in cornmeal here – I forgot to take one. Oops!)

This process is mes-sy, but so worth it.

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Once the oil is nice and hot (but not smoking), get your battered tomatoes in there.

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You’ll want to flip them when the edges are a nice golden brown, which shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds at most. Once flipped, it only needs about 30 seconds to get brown. As you take them out, put them on a paper towel-lined plate the remove the excess oil.

After my tomatoes were fried (yay!), I reached in the fridge for some ranch dressing because that’s what you’re allegedly supposed to eat them with and I found that we were all out of ranch. Ah crappers.

Not one to panic, I decided to whip up a batch of ranch myself. I mean, I have fresh herbs outside and both sour cream and mayonnaise in the fridge – how hard could it be?

I mixed roughly equal parts mayo and sour cream (maybe a touch more mayo) and then I added in chopped fresh parsley and dill. I topped it off with salt and pepper and gave it a good stir.

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Holy smokes, you guys, it was good! I finished it off with a squirt of Srirachia because let’s face it, everything is better with Srirachia, and plated it up with my fried green(ish) tomatoes. I’m going to go on the record to say that I may never buy ranch dressing again. If I were going to use this homemade version on a salad, I might add a touch of milk to thin it out a bit for pour-ability, but as far as taste goes, this was fantastic and didn’t have that weird aftertaste that so many ranch dressings have.

fgt07Honest to goodness, fried green tomatoes are really, really good. Who knew? I’m actually kind of impressed that I didn’t botch this on the first attempt and I can’t wait to pick up some truly green tomatoes to give it a whirl again. I should add that even the Irishman ate them AND enjoyed them. Crazy, right?

If you decide to reach out and touch your inner-Southerner, I’d highly recommend giving these a go.

 

Honey-Rosemary Garlic Chicken (In the crockpot)

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Ahhh, autumn. Season of leaves drifting softly to the ground, pumpkin flavored everything, and crockpot-cooked meals. While I know that technically, a crockpot can be used year-round, mine only seems to maintain a counter top presence between the months of September and February. Perhaps that’s because it’s best suited for warm, comfort food meals…or perhaps I’m sick of those same meals by March – whatever the reasons, the crockpot has officially re-emerged from the confines of my cabinets.

On Mondays and Thursdays, we have a busy after school schedule. Parker has officially entered the age of 1,000 activities and while I’m determined to limit him to 2 of 3 a semester, it still complicates meal time because we’re out the door by 5pm heading to either Cub Scouts or soccer practice. It takes such a load off my schedule to have a crockpot meal going on those days so that we can eat at any point between 4:30 or 7pm without me needing to stand at attention at the stove.

This recipe is my tinkered version of a Cooking Light meal. While I normally get annoyed when you have to do any browning/cooking of foods before you put it in the crockpot, this one is definitely worth it because it helps the chicken hold together instead of dissolving after hours of cooking. Here’s what you need for this recipe:

Ingredients
6-12 skinless bone-in chicken thighs
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 package sliced mushrooms
2 medium onions, cut into rings
4-8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

First, go ahead and heat your vegetable oil over medium-high heat and brown your chicken thighs (about 3 minutes per side). While the chicken thighs are browning, slice your onions into rings and add both the onions and the mushrooms on the bottom of the crockpot.

Once your chicken thighs are browned, add them on top of the onions and mushrooms.

rosemary01Now, it’s time to make the sauce! In a bowl, whisk together the honey, cornstarch, chopped rosemary, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

rosemary02Once it’s combined, pour it over your chicken.

**I should note that if you’re using chicken breasts instead of thighs, you’ll need to add a bit of chicken broth (less than a 1/4 cup) to the bottom of the pan because the moisture-content is lower for breasts than thighs.**

Now, put a lid on that puppy and cook it on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4. (I’ve never let this go for a full 10 hours, but I’m sure it would be fine even if the chicken started falling apart).

Here, pretend you see a picture of the mushrooms and onions cooked waaaaay down and the chicken thighs a fraction smaller and cooked through. Sadly, I don’t have a picture of the final product dished up because someone (ahem, Irishman) ate it before I could snap it. Ah well, I’m glad it was enjoyed. I hope you like it too!

Just One of the Dogs

Miss Daisy Duke has certainly made herself at home over these last 10 months. She’s put on a whopping 20 lbs. (thank goodness!) and she’s settled into life at the zoo (as we call our house) nicely. While Daisy is definitely part of our pack now, she gets a different set of rules from the corgis. She gets to hang out outside – because she doesn’t bark at everything that moves – and she has to be crated at night – since she still thinks the cats are prey. She doesn’t seem to mind, though. Compared to where she came from, life probably seems pretty good right about now.

The one different “rule” that she hasn’t quite gotten on board with yet is that she isn’t allowed on the couch. Since the other dogs are, this probably doesn’t seem fair, but Miss Daisy’s favorite bed is a sunny patch of dirt near the front fence. In other words, she is generally more “earthy” than the other dogs. She has quite the plush dog bed inside, which the other dogs don’t go near, but every once and awhile, I’ll go into the living room and find this.

daisy01Um, Daisy, you’re not supposed to be on the couch. Can you hear me?

daisy02Hello?? Daisy? I know you’re awake. Why aren’t you looking at me?

daisy03I realize you’re comfortable, but you’re probably dirty. Let’s get you down from there.

daisy04No, licking me won’t help. Come on, lets’ move it.

daisy05I can still see you, even when you cover your eyes.

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Yes, Nona. I realize that she’s still on the couch.

chewie01Yes Chewie, I see you too. Okay. Come on Daisy..up, up!

daisy06No talking back.

daisy07Yes, I mean it.

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Oh what the hell. The couch is probably dirty already. As you were, Miss Daisy. As you were.