Hey, Y’all. I’m not going to talk about the rain today. Not the bajillion days of rain we’ve had this summer or the number or inches of rainfall we’ve experienced beyond our average. I’m also not going to talk about the terrifying elementary school shooting that took place a few miles from our little town. Nope. I’m going to talk about something awesome to bring myself and the rest of you a smidgen of cheer. FRIED OKRA.
The markets have been teeming with green and red pods of okra over the past several weeks.
And I’ve been on a bit of a fried okra kick. I get that it’s not the healthiest thing in America to eat, but when the okra starts flowing, we must eat it. If you’re like me, and you didn’t grown up in the South, then you probably don’t have an affinity for that unique okra slime. I abhor it. It freaks me out, and I want no parts of it, unless it’s helping to thicken up a pot of legit gumbo. Even I can understand that the slime has a job to do in that regard.
But, let’s be honest here. The best way to consume okra is in its fried state. What I discovered this summer though, is that okra doesn’t have to be battered to be fried.
While completely delicious, even as an accompaniment to the fattest breakfast sandwich ever, the batter just wants to fall off the okra. Perhaps the pods feel constricted or weighed down. We all feel that way sometimes.
My inspiration came from this fried okra dish at Chai Pani, a local “Indian street food” restaurant in Decatur. It is 100% addictive. Their method is to thinly slice the pods, fry them crispy, and then toss them in lime juice and Indian spices. Amazing. One of my friends and I demolished the whole plate. And I got to thinking…I could do this at home!
On my first attempt, I chose to go an Italian route, combining dried parsley and dried oregano with salt, pepper, and a pinch of ground fennel and coriander.
This isn’t even a recipe really- more of a nudge for you to pick up some okra at the next farmers market and make yourself a tasty treat.
Before you slice your okra, prepare your iron skillet. You want to pour enough oil to encourage free, uninhibited swimming by your okra. I used almost a whole bottle of canola oil. And I’m only a little bit ashamed.
Heat the oil over medium- medium high heat, and be seriously careful about this. A pan of hot oil is no joke. You want to achieve a temperature of about 350° for frying. Use a cooking thermometer to gauge your readiness, and try to maintain an even temperature while you cook. If you allow the oil to get too hot, it will burn up your okra in no time.
You’ll want to cut off the caps of your okra first, and then turn each guy on his side and slice longways. I was able to slice every pod of okra into thirds, if not fourths.
With your oil ready and your safety hat on, get to frying! (OMG, I never say that!)
Do this task in batches.
If you overcrowd the oil, the temperature will drop quickly, and you won’t get that crisp, brown wonderfulness that you’re craving.
Use a heat-safe tool to flip the okra slices now and again as they cook. This process goes very quickly, only taking a couple minutes to brown the okra on both sides. When each batch is golden brown, remove the okra to a paper towel lined plate.
Season with your choice of spices, citrus, salt and pepper. Then, check the temperature of your oil, and go for another batch!
You will eat a lot of okra as you fry, and that is totally okay in my book. This is a rare summertime treat, not an every day affair!
From there, it’s all up to you. Eat the okra as you would potato chips…shoving them into your mouth with reckless abandon. OR- utilize them as a crisp component in a meal that needs a little texture like
this smoked brisket with farro risotto and fresh tomatoes, or
Exhibit B- steak tacos with avocado cream and cotija cheese.
You may want to buy a lot of okra. These crunchy stalks of yumminess will not last long in your kitchen. Fried without any breading, the sweet flavor of the okra truly shines through.
So, if you’re feeling a little low and looking for a spot of happiness that reeks of summertime amidst all of this gloom, get to the nearest farmers market immediately and grab a bag of okra.
Happy cooking and eating to you,