Here’s something for the Good Idea file: Fried Okra as an appetizer.
That’s how they serve it at Edley’s Bar-B-Que here in Nashville. They bring it to you in a big basket, still hot and crispy, with a creamy dip.
It’s an idea whose time has come.
If you’re like me, and you grew up sneaking the fried okra off the paper towels on your granny’s counter, you understand the power of that basket. The sight and the smell. That salty crunch. It’s a borderline religious experience. Dozens of Sunday suppers baptized in hot oil.
But, most of all, fried okra is fun.
Traditionally, you slice it up, roll it in cornmeal, and fry it, but I like to dip it in buttermilk before I dredge it to help the cornmeal stick. Sometimes I add things to the buttermilk, like Frank’s Hot Sauce.
That makes the okra supah-fun.
Serve it as an appetizer, sprinkle a few pieces on your salad (instead of croutons), or scoop it into a paper bag and go to the movies. I’ll never tell.
P.S. If you’re feeling fancy, make some buttermilk-lime dressing for dipping. I could drink that stuff by the shot glass.
If you don’t have buttermilk, it’s fine to rinse the sliced okra in water and toss it in the cornmeal mixture. Some people prefer their okra a little more naked.
From Rebecca Crump (Ezra Pound Cake)
Makes 4 servings
- 1 pound okra
- Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper
- To Prep the Okra: Rinse the okra. Trim and discard both ends of each piece. Cut the okra into 1/4-inch slices.
- Pour the oil into a large (preferably cast-iron) skillet until it’s 1/2-inch deep. Heat the oil over medium heat. (If you’re using an electric skillet, set the temperature to 350 degrees F.)
- In the meantime, pour your buttermilk into a large bowl. Add the okra, and set aside.
- Combine the cornmeal and flour in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the okra from the buttermilk, and toss the okra in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off the excess, and place the okra on a baking sheet. (Don’t leave your okra in the bowl. It will clump together, like kitty litter.)
- When your oil is ready, add the okra in a single layer. (You’ll probably have to work in batches.) Fry until golden brown, turning the okra occasionally so it browns all over.
- To keep the okra crispy, remove it from the oil, and place it on a cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet covered in paper bags, newspaper or paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, and dig in!
Spicy Version: Add a few dashes of hot sauce to the buttermilk and a pinch of cayenne or Creole seasoning to the cornmeal before frying.