I saw these lurking behind the tomatillos at the grocery store and decided that I had to have them.
I’ve never worked with them before, but I have eaten them. Fried. At Small Bar. On Division.
Why, you might ask, would I order fried green tomatoes at a soccer bar? Well, Chef Justin White took over the kitchen a while back after a stint at The Bristol, a restaurant I love, so I wanted to try them. Despite having spent four years and many summers of my childhood in South Carolina, I had never tasted these mystical disks made popular by a rather poignant film starring Mary Stuart Masterson as Idgie, an only a slightly more evolved tomboy than her sour Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful. Both characters are similar to fried green tomatoes — sweet with an acidic bite, deliciously complex and never disappointing. Unless you order them from Small Bar (which you can’t because they’re no longer on the menu) which were served too firm and too dull.
Surely there had to be a way to make them good, I thought. And thought. And thought some more.
It actually occurred to me that I had a recipe for a version of fried green tomatoes in my Soa Davies Short Stack cookbook that I mentioned in a previous post https://derivativedishes.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/pie-eyed/.
It’s basically eggplant parmigiana with green tomatoes instead of eggplant. It’s a pretty good idea, so I tried it. But since I already had the tomatoes and I was going to make a huge mess, I found several recipes for traditional, Southern fried green tomatoes to test simultaneously. They’re all basically the same: slice them, dredge them in flour, dip them in buttermilk and coat them with corn meal. I was a little dubious about this because, it seemed, that’s what I had at Small Bar and it wasn’t good. So I came up with something fun using Davies’s idea combined with traditional Southern fried green tomatoes.
I have no idea what to call it.
Instead of cheese and sauce to layer with the stacks of fried tomatoes, I used pimento cheese spread (Carolina Caviar – very Southern. I adapted this from http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/snacks_and_munchies/pimento_cheese_spread.html).
It’s easy to make.
Pimento Cheese Spread
- 4 oz. Sliced pimentos, drained
- 1 lb (give or take a few ounces) grated cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- Salt, pepper and sugar to taste (I like it sweet, so I used about a tablespoon of sugar)
Dump it all in a food processor and pulse until it’s as smooth as you like it (Carolina Caviar is chunky). Refrigerate for a few hours before using.
While those flavors marry, make the tomatoes.
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 2 Green tomatoes, sliced
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup cornmeal
- Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
- 3 cups vegetable oil
Heat vegetable oil in dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat — it’s ready when a drop of water dances and spits wildly on the surface.
Season the flour and cornmeal with the salt, sugar and pepper (I added this because I was deathly afraid of the tomatoes being as bland as the ones I tried at Small Bar).
Dredge each slice of tomato in the flour, dip in buttermilk and coat with cornmeal. Gently lay each tomato in the oil and fry in batches until they are a golden color — not quite brown because they will be cooked a second time and you don’t want them to be mushy.
Remove the slices from the oil and let cool on a plate lined with paper towels.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Spread a generous layer of pimento cheese on each slice and stack in a large ramekin or small baking dish.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Let cool about five minutes before serving.
I hesitate to show pictures of a bite of what is, for all intents and purposes, a casserole, because it’s just mush, but here it is.
And it’s delicious. It’s crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside with the perfect balance of sweet and savory. I’m quite proud of this one.
It’s darn good, too.