I tend to make these at two times of the year: when the tomatoes aren’t yet ripe, but there are a ton of big greens hanging there taunting me, and just before or after the first frost of the year when I’m trying to make the most of the harvest. This recipe was requested by several people, as was my piccalilli recipe, which I’ll share at that second time of the year. it’s a funny thing, my making this recipe. It’s traditionally a Southern thing, and I’m very much a northern girl, with heavy shades of the West in my upbringing. But the one thing that I have in common with the ladies who first came up with this dish? A reluctance to waste anything, and a certain amount of impatience with the garden harvest.
When frost is threatening, I can cover my tomato plants, but that only works for so long, and then there’s the rush to pick all the things, and put them up securely in jars or the freezer for the long cold winter. Tomatoes in particular are somehow the essence of summer sunshine in a lovely globular package. But green tomatoes have their value as much as the red (or yellow) ones do. Tangy, firm, not as ‘tomatoey’ as the ripe versions, they lend themselves well to applications like making relish (chow-chow, piccalilli, other variations) or frying. You couldn’t bread and fry a ripe tomato slice, it would fall apart in the pan. Well, you might be able to… but these have a unique texture and flavor all their own, and one that is, IMO, well worth the effort involved in making them.
As you get set up, you’ll want a large cast iron skillet with about 1/2″ of oil in it. Three shallow bowls for the breading station, a slotted spatula for turning and lifting the tomato slices in the oil, and a fork for each of your bowls will make life easier. As always, I try to prep everything so I’m not trying to manage the cook at the same time as prepping. I’m not the most organized person in the world, but experience has taught me a few things.
You’ll want to slab your green tomatoes into fairly thick slices, close to a half inch. If you make them thinner the ratio of breading to tomato is off – unless that’s the part you like, in which case, skinny slices will do. Just not too skinny or they fall apart.
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 3-4 large green tomatoes
- 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 c self-rising cornmeal
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 c milk
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
In one bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In the second bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. In the third and final bowl, put the self-rising cornmeal. Heat oil in skillet until a breadcrumb dropped in rises immediately to the top of the oil.
Flour each slice of tomato, then flip it in the egg mix, before finally dredging it in the cornmeal. The three-step process is important, the flour helps the egg mixture stick to the tomato, otherwise your cornmeal will flake off as it cooks easily. I’ve tried shortcuts, they don’t work well, and after several experiments I settled on this method as best to my taste. I added the seasoning to the flour as the other layers protect them from burning in the hot oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate covered in paper towels. Serve while still hot – some like theirs with a drizzle of ranch dressing.
I have been known to eat these for my lunch, but they are a very nice side to a dinner, in lieu of the rather boring French fry. For this meal, I made crockpot pulled pork, a quick salad, sliced salted cucumbers (the First Reader’s favorite thing), and it was a feast.