Problem is, I’d never actually made fried green tomatoes, and even though I knew they (obviously) had to be green, I was afraid the tomatoes we had might be a little too green.
Still, with about six medium-sized green tomatoes leftover from the carnage, it was worth a try. I dug around for instructions, and found inspiration in The Joy of Cooking, which had a good basic recipe from which to work. Not even my great vegetarian cookbook had a recipe for these tasty treats, which surprised me.
The recipe recommended a mix of four parts finely ground cornmeal to one part flour, but all I had on hand was some fabulous polenta that Steve’s Mom gave me. With no time to go to the store, I recruited the polenta for the dish, and mixed in some kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, the flour, and some dried basil, which I figured would hold up better to the frying process than the fresh stuff.
I soaked each tomato slice in skim milk before dredging it in the polenta mixture, and, per the recipe’s suggestions, finished all the slices before starting to fry the tomatoes up in the oil. I just used regular canola oil for the frying—olive oil has too low of a smoke point for this purpose, and I wanted a clean flavor that wouldn’t interfere with the crust.
I’m not a patient girl, and always have trouble leaving food alone long enough for it to truly brown before I flip it, but I managed to keep my hands off the spatula this time around, resulting in fabulous, crispy brown slices of fried green tomato. Apparently, the tomatoes were just at the right point for frying, because they were creamy inside. A sprinkle of salt was all they needed, and we washed them down with a microbrewed ale.
Fried Green Tomatoes with Polenta Crust
Five to six green tomatoes
Approximately 2 cups polenta
Approximately 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
(Adjust amounts depending on how many tomatoes you have, but the proportion should be four parts polenta to one part flour)
1 Tbsp. dried basil
A generous pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 c. skim milk
Canola oil for frying
Additional salt to taste
Slice the tomatoes approximately 1/2-inch thick. Mix the polenta, flour, basil, salt and pepper together in one bowl, and pour the milk into another. Dredge each slice of tomato through the milk, then through the polenta mixture, then stack them carefully on a plate. Pour oil about a quarter-inch deep in a cast-iron skillet (any heavy-duty skillet will do) and heat until a drop of water added to the oil sizzles. Cook the tomatoes in a single layer, as many as will fit into the pan, until brown on one side, then turn and cook until brown on the other side. Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Continue until all the tomatoes are cooked, adding oil to the pan if necessary.