fried okra


I remember the exact first moment I had fried okra.  I would like to think that I was about three years old, but in reality I was probably more like six or seven.  I was eating at Piccadilly (the restaurant, not the circus) with my grandmother and she gave me a piece of fried okra off of her plate to try.  Being a child who was (and usually honestly still is) perfectly content with a standard plate of fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, it was the first experience I had ever had in my life where I wished I had gotten something different, where I felt envious of someone else’s plate.  Of course my grandmother shared her fried okra with me, and I think my family was so excited that I had found a vegetable I liked (if fried okra really even counts) that everyone started making it for me.  My grandmother bought frozen bags of fried okra and cooked it in a skillet for me at family dinners.  When  my parents expanded their backyard gardening ventures beyond herbs and tomatoes, they grew okra and my mom fried it up in tiny little crisps.  It was all good, but honestly none of it compared to that first piece that since then I had placed on a pedestal in my memory.

And then Gerrit and I ate at the Tupelo Honey Cafe (which you will probably continue to hear about endlessly because I just bought their cookbook) and I had the absolute best fried okra that I have ever had in my life.  And I knew that from then on, that was the way I had to have it.  Pieces that were chunky enough not to loose their okra taste, mixed in a batter that involved cornmeal, and crispy and warm and salty.

And I know, I know.  Okra is an odd thing for a “picky” eat to like.  But I never said everything I like is normal, just that there are a lot of things I don’t like that I am working on getting past.  I used to order black olives, and only black olives, on my cheese pizza and I would pick them off and eat them one by one before continuing on with the pizza.

When I’m doing recipes for this site I always feel constantly torn.  I always feel like I need to make something about five more times to make sure that all of the kinks are worked out with what I’ve either written or have changed about a previously written recipe.  Hey, I want you to trust me.  So let me just say that whenever I have made this in past I always just threw some flour and some cornmeal in the bowl until it looked about right and then fried the okra up.  But when I wanted to post the recipe here I realized I needed to measure.  So I made this with 1/3 cup of cornmeal, which I think might have been a little much, so I’ve lowered it to 1/4 cup below.  All this to say, change it to whatever you think will work best, as always.

Fried Okra

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2-3 minutes per batch (10-15 total)

Makes 2-3 servings

1/2 lb. okra, ends trimmed off, cut into 3/4 inch pieces*
Vegetable or Canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal

1. In a large heavy-bottomed stock pot, pour oil to depth of one inch (usually about 4 cups).  Heat oil until it reads 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy/deep fry thermometer.
2. While oil is heating, pour buttermilk into a small bowl, and in a second small bowl combine flour, cornmeal, a pinch or salt, and a pinch of pepper.  Line a plate with paper towels to put the okra on later.
3. When oil is almost to temperature, put a handful of okra into the buttermilk, making sure that each piece is coated.  Then coat the pieces in the flour mixture.
4. When oil is at temperature, carefully place the battered okra into the oil (it is helpful to use the frying scoop to not only scoop the okra out, but also put it in).  Fry okra 2-3 minutes, until it is golden brown and crispy.  Be sure to carefully monitor oil temperature, turning the heat down, or even taking it off the heat temporarily, if the oil becomes too hot.
5. Scoop okra out and place on the plate lined with paper towels.  While okra is still hot, sprinkle with salt.  Repeat the frying process with remaining okra, in several batches.  Serve fresh and warm.

* 3/4 of an inch?  What a picky instruction.  I know.  But 1/2 inch seemed too big and 1/4 inch seemed too small, and so 3/4 inch is what we’re left with.

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