Saturday, July 9, 2011

The PERFECT Fried Green Tomato

One of the treats of summer is the tomato in all of its fresh glory. The beautiful red-orange of an imperfect orb served in thick slices on white bread with mayo; diced and tossed with olive oil, fresh basil and cubes of brie; cut into fat chunks with cucumber, Vidalia onion and apple cider vinegar - these are the cold dishes I dream about on winter days.
After the initial frenzy of picking and eating tomatoes just as they turned ripe and then settling into the happy confidence that a tomato sandwich was no further away than the back yard, we were ready to start raiding the tomato "nursery" for firm, green, unripe specimens to slice and fry.
Most people can get the dish started properly - wash, thinly slice, coat in cornmeal mix with salt and pepper....
My canola oil is heating to medium high; I slice and meal as many tomatoes as I can since once the frying begins there is no time to waste between batches. I make sure I have two pan's worth of tomatoes ready between each frying batch.
If the heat is too high, the outside burns and the inside is soggy and the taste "off." Too low, the tomato is a greasy mess. I've found medium to medium-high heat and two inches of oil in a 14" skillet gets the job done.
This beautiful nibble is crispy on the outside, sweet-tart on the inside and on its way to join its bretheren.
But where? On a plate lined with paper towels? In a paper bag to shakeoff the excess oil? Nope. On a cookie cooling rack.
This simple trick keeps the tomatoes crisp all over. Charlie was engaged in a radio contest in his Man Cave so I fried his tomatoes first, piled them on a plate and gave them a grind of pepper and took them to him. After I fried mine and ate them I checked on his verdict - he loves FGT (fried green tomatoes) and is an expert on their quality. These were declared "the best I ever ate. Crispy, full of flavor, very tomato-y with a hint of sweetness."
I was pleased with them, myself.
I've never liked making FGT as a side dish because of the awful potential for sogginess and reputation damage as a cook so we used to just eat them right out of the pan. Using a cooling rack will allow me to add FGT to my entertainment menus since I can keep the dish warm and crispy in the oven.
The keys to good FGT are sharp knives, firm tomatoes, clean oil, nothing more than meal to coat and cooling racks.
Eat 'em up, ya'll!

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