The calendar and the temperature are still screaming summer here in Atlanta, but in my world it is fall. The children are back in school and I attended my first football game of the season earlier this week. All of this is a not so gentle reminder that the lazy summer days will soon be coming to an end. That also means that one of my favorite summer vegetables, okra, will be less abundant in the weeks to come as well.
Fried okra is a staple on my summer menus, and one of the only fried items that sees a regular rotation in my meal planning. I do occasionally roast my okra. It is good, but nothing beats the tried and true recipe for fried okra that was handed down to me by my grandmother Zachary. This okra has a light batter of cornmeal and flour and is shallow fried in a cast iron skillet. The secret to this tasty side dish is that each individual piece of okra is turned over one by one. As a hungry and impatient child, I could not understand why my grandmother gently flipped each piece one by one, in what seemed like an eternity to complete a batch. The only explanation I ever received from the patient cook was, "That's the way Easter did it!" Easter was my grandmother's housekeeper when my father was a small child. She got her unusual name because she was born on Easter Sunday, and evidently used to joke that she was grateful she had not been born on Thanksgiving. I think Easter's sense of humor was just as good as her method for frying okra.
While the days are still long, I highly recommend taking the time to fry up a batch of this okra. Might I suggest that you make sure to double or triple the recipe, as these crunchy nuggets tend to disappear before they even make it to the dinner plate.
Canola oil for frying
1 lb fresh okra
1 cup fine yellow corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1) Pour oil to a depth of 1/2 inch into a cast iron skillet. Heat to 350 degrees.
2) Cut okra into 1/2 inch rounds and place in a medium sized bowl.
3) Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper in a gallon sized zip top bag. Seal the bag and shake to combine ingredients.
4) Add okra to the cornmeal and flour mixture in the bag and shake so that all the okra is thoroughly coated.
5) Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your oil. If you do not have a thermometer, you may check the oil temperature by placing one piece of okra in the oil. If the oil sizzles (see photo below), you are ready to start frying.
6) Using a slotted spoon, remove okra from the bag, shaking off any excess coating, and place the okra gently into the skillet, in a single layer.
7) Make sure that all of the okra pieces are lying flat in the pan and cook on the first side for about 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Using a set of tongs, flip the individual pieces of okra and allow to cook on the opposite side another 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
8) Using a slotted spoon, remove the okra to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with additional salt while still hot.
9) Repeat frying process with any additional okra