FRIED OKRA

California is experiencing a heat wave, and Los Angeles is especially warm. My grandchildren’s schools decided to close early the other day because of the heat – the 90’s – even though the schools sit on the edge of the ocean with ocean breezes. The classrooms are air-conditioned as well. Never mind, the schools closed and parents were asked to pick up their kids, working or not. This decision set my daughter into a fit of pique, especially because she remembered her days in Louisiana where it gets really hot and humid, and the schools were not air-conditioned because the school board considered that a luxury.

Carol shared her disgust with her siblings via e-mail, and that stimulated a discussion of all the tribulations they endured while growing up. Among these, was the menu in the school cafeteria.

We moved to the South when the two older kids were in elementary school, and they had never had okra. They tasted it for the first time on their first day of school. And the second time…and the third time… and the fourth time… which is to say that stewed tomatoes and okra were served every single day. To this day, none of our kids eats okra.

Okra has a well-earned reputation as being slimy. That is especially so when it is boiled or when it is cooked with stewed tomatoes. As a result of this, many refuse to eat okra even though it is possible to prepare it in such a way as to avoid the slime. Mostly this is done by frying with one or another method.

This last week my wife accompanied me to the farmers market, and for old time’s sake, she bought some okra. The pods were beautiful and small so they promised to be tender and delicious. I deep-fried a batch last night, and neither my wife nor I was disappointed. Not a trace of slime.

Fresh okra pods

Fresh okra pods

Deep-fried okra

Deep-fried okra

RECIPE

Fried Okra

Ingredients

  • okra, leave whole if small or cut into 1 inch slices if larger
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • peanut oil for deep-frying

Method

  1. Wash okra in cold water and dry on a clean kitchen towel
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the beaten egg, buttermilk, and salt
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper until well combined.
  4. In a deep, heavy pot heat 3 inches of peanut oil to 350° F.
  5. Place the washed and dried okra pods in the egg and buttermilk mixture, coating them completely.
  6. One by one, transfer the okra pods to the flour/cornmeal mixture and then transfer to the heated oil, being very careful not to burn yourself.
  7. Fry the okra pods until they are well browned. With tongs, transfer the fried okra to several layers of paper towel to drain. Salt immediately.
  8. Keep warm in the oven at 170° F until all the okra is fried. Serve while still warm.
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