Fried Green Tomatoes, finally
I have been curious about Fried Green Tomatoes, the recipe, since the mid-nineties when Fried Green Tomatoes, the movie (that I loved so much) came out. I never got around to trying the dish, probably because I never found myself down south where I could taste an authentic version (which is how I think one should ideally sample anything for the first time).. It also went against the tomato lover and chef instinct in me to not leave a tomato on the vine (or on the counter) and let it ripen to its full potential. And truth be told, I was sceptical about how tasty a green tomato could really be; one would think the acidity would be overbearing once served hot. One more thing.. I hardly wanted to destroy the warm and fuzzy imagery concocted in the film, the exquisite deliciousness that resided in my brain. You see, I was afraid to repeat my Turkish Delight disappointment. After reading Narnia as a kid, I had made that far-away, fictional sweet out to be the most seductive, tantalizing treat possible in my mind, the ultimate weakness to befall all earthly men and women.. only to taste it years later. To find that it tasted like a perfumey stale marshmallow, and I don’t like marshmallows; what a dud. It made the story I had been so taken by feel like fluff. That really hurt.
In any case, for better or for worse, the time for Fried Green Tomatoes eventually and finally came this summer. With the rainy weather and so much green tomato talk, the southern dish fell back onto my radar. Not out of necessity (because luckily, our crop was abundant and plenty ripe), but to satisfy a decades-old nagging question, François and I got down to frying up a collection of tomatoes from the garden one night - some very green, others a paler green, pinkish ones and ripe ones of several varieties. We did a classic anglaise with flour, egg wash and home made bread crumbs seasoned with herbs, and served them straight up, alongside several other dishes.
All were quite delicious and different, but surprise, surprise - the green ones were indeed the best. The riper ones were too soft, yummy nonetheless, reminiscent of Tomates Provençale (one of the first dishes we made in vegetable class in cooking school, which also once adorned many a plate in classic French restaurants). These called out for cheese and texture, say veal or eggplant. But the fried green tomatoes stood alone - fresh, fragrant, and firm, turned succulent and rich with the buttery breading, a nice contrast. We used a good olive oil and a touch of butter, but couldn’t help but think that bacon fat would have been killer. We easily polished off a whole bunch, and François heated up the left-overs in the oven in a myriad of ways in the following days, as a side for steak, and gratin style with melted cheese and olives.
I, on the other hand, came down with 24hr flu that night, a horrible one. Rationally, I knew the fried green tomatoes had nothing to do with it, but still, I couldn’t face a tomato, green or otherwise for weeks (and I LOVE tomatoes).
Enough time has passed now, and with the temperature dropping, it’s time to harvest the last of our crop. We are still picking ripe ones every day but with the remaining green fruit, it is probably better to take them in as is at this point, rather than let them freeze on the vine any night now. So onto the menu they go.
I will serve them fried in a ‘salade tiede’ with the last of the season’s sea spinach and daisy leaves, with some Terre Promise cheese shavings and bacon, and a crinkleroot (wild horseradish) Caesar style dressing.. Sounds good, no?