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