Recipe: Fried Green Tomatoes
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but before I came to work at Southern Living, I had never tasted a fried green tomato. Call me deprived, even ignorant, but for some reason I had never found the gumption to sample this traditional Southern favorite. To my narrow way of thinking, tomatoes ought to be red and fresh, not green and fried.
That all changed one day at tasting. Test Kitchens professional Vanessa McNeil was frying a mess of tomatoes, pulling them out of the skillet in batches just as the Foods staff arrived to sample the day's recipes. "Y'all please eat these right away," she said. "I want you to taste them while they're still hot." They were golden and crisp, with a pleasingly rugged exterior. Unlike the evenly applied coatings found in prebreaded frozen products, this crust had character. Some of us started munching on the inviting medallions before we made it back to the table and even turned back for seconds before we sat down. The combination of fried cornmeal and flour encasing hot, tart, juicy tomato was exquisite.
I was hooked. I vowed to learn what it takes to make a great fried green tomato. So I obtained the fine recipe, then asked Vanessa for some pointers. It seems she has frying down to an art.
How to Make Fried Green Tomatoes
"I use a cast-iron skillet at home, but have found that any good, heavy skillet works fine," she says. "Actually, an electric skillet is great--it keeps an even heat, so the tomatoes all cook nicely."
Vanessa also recommends using firm tomatoes and frying them in fairly shallow oil, about 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep. "You don't want to cover the tomatoes with grease," she says. "And keep the temperature at 360° to 375°. If you like, you can add about three tablespoons bacon grease for more flavor." Salt the fried tomatoes as they drain, and serve them hot. "They retain their heat for a while, so let them cool just a little before you eat them," Vanessa adds. "After that, all you need is a fork."
Thanks to Vanessa and my other colleagues, I'm now in the know about fried green tomatoes. Try this recipe, and you will be too.
Novelist Fannie Flagg modeled her book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café after Birmingham's Irondale Cafe, which her great-aunt operated for nearly 40 years. Owner Jim Dolan says his crew cooks about 135 pounds of fried green tomatoes a day. The book and movie helped the dish's popularity-visitors come from all over the country to sample this Southern specialty.