Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fried okra

Supper was ready the other night. Shrimp and corn bisque. A loaf of the artisan bread that WE ARE IN LOVE WITH. Salad fixins' fixed. And then the lady across the street called, to ask if we wanted any fresh okra and of course, we did. I had in my mind...dinner the next night.

Y'all, that okra was BEAUTIFUL. And it sat on the counter and just SANG to me until finally...let's do okra. Now, The Big Boy and I grew up with our grandmother's okra and it's still our slice the okra into a bowl, pour some milk or buttermilk over it, sprinkle it with flour and dump the whole mass into hot bacon grease and cook it down. When it's done, it's...homogenous. Crispy, one hair short of burnt, the stuff dreams are made of.

But in this day and time, when frying is a special-occasion event, my kids are accustomed to the okra you get in lunchrooms and Cracker Barrel...the individually fried okras. So that's what I did. Appetizer style, and we ate the ENTIRE BATCH before we ever sat down to dinner.

Oooh. This brings us to another thing. I have some buddies who are in Baltimore, working on a nuclear plant. And they come home for the weekend, get ready to go back and have these "altercations" at the airport trying to take back loaf bologna and White Lily cornmeal. Which you can't get up there. And since I don't think you can cook okra without White Lily, you may have to fake it. (Although White Lily just shut down its Tennessee plant and moved to some godforsaken Yankee town like...Cleveland or something.)

Fried Okra
White Lily cornmeal mix
Bacon grease plus vegetable oil

Wash and dry the okra. Slice it into a large bowl, discarding the tops and ends. Pour enough buttermilk or milk over to coat each slice, and let sit for a little while. (A little while would be however long it takes to get the rest of supper started.) If you're cooking it appetizer-style, drain the okra in a colander. Take a gallon ziplock bag and put about a cup of White Lily in the bottom. Add the drained okra, pour another cup of White Lily on top, seal the bag and shake until each slice is coated. Pour the okra out onto a baking sheet, in a single layer.

Using (preferably) a large black cast iron Dutch oven, pour in bacon grease and vegetable oil to about two inches. Heat to 350 degrees, and then fry the okra in batches. When it's done, scoop it out onto a platter lined with paper towels and SALT IT IMMEDIATLY. For appetizers, we use cayenne, or smoked salt, or Tony Chacheres.

If you're frying the old-fashioned way...after you add the buttermilk, just sprinkle the White Lily into the bowl and fold to combine. Then fry, stirring occasionally.

If you can't get White Lily, you can mix white cornmeal and white flour, 2 cornmeals to one flour.

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