August 6, 2012

If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been hopping around on one foot for a few days. Today, I got the cast off, the stitches out, and a walking boot, making me a two-footed cook. But I still can’t stand up for long periods – more like twenty to thirty minutes at a time.

Every menu plan has to take this into account. I stand and chop and otherwise mis en place… then rest. Then I cook. So, as seductive as the market is right now with eggplant, squash, leeks, carrots, okra, and of course, tomatoes, whatever I plan to do can’t take too long to make, or too much babysitting.

Okra. Are you an okra hater? Do you pass it over because you have no idea what to do with it? Well, I can assure you, pickling okra is fantastic and pickled okra are about the coolest bloody Mary garnish around. Also, wrap a slice of ham and cheese around an okra pickle for a retro finger food or picnic item. For the okra pickle, just use a basic hot vinegar brine with pickling spice (or your own spice blend) and let them steep for two weeks before enjoying. (Okra pickles can be processed in a boiling water bath.)

But that’s not the only thing to do with okra. It’s wonderful in gumbo, of course, and in Indian spiced stews. Still, this takes a knowledge of okra, a familiarity, to eat okra that’s been stewed. Stewing can bring out the slime and if this is the only way you’ve sampled okra, I’m here to give you another choice.

Pan fried okra. Never slimy, just crunchy, salty, satisfying.

Set up a quick three step coating – some flour in bowl one, a couple of beaten eggs in bowl two, half and half cornmeal and flour in bowl three. Each bowl gets seasoned with salt and pepper, the last bowl gets a big pinch of cayenne, too.

Slice okra into 1/2″ rings. If the okra is very small, you can fry it up whole, which is fun and super cute as an appetizer.

In a cast iron or other straight sided skillet, heat up some oil (canola, grapeseed, safflower) or some bacon fat (classic preparation and so much better, really, but be aware of your salt in the three step coating.) You want it about 3/4″ deep.

When doing the coating dance, use one hand for the dry and one hand for the wet – it’s a hokey pokey. Put the okra rings in the flour with the dry hand. Stir the okra around until the rings are all coated.

Now, taking just a few of the rings at once in the dry hand, drop them into the beaten egg. With the wet hand, dunk and coat the okra thoroughly and remove the wet okra and drop it into the cornmeal flour mixture. Using your dry hand, pile the flour/cornmeal over the wet okra. Toss the bowl around a bit to coat the okra and use the dry hand to move the coated okra to a sheet pan.

Now, look at your hands. One should be dry and fairly clean, the other… not so much.  When I first tried to master this art, I could be heard muttering in the kitchen “Wet hand, dry hand. Wet hand, dry hand.”

When the oil is good and hot, start frying the okra quickly in the pan, just a few at a time, not crowding. They will brown up fast – just a couple of minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Shower with salt while they’re hot.

Serve just like popcorn, or make some sort of fancy aioli or mayonnaise for dipping, if you want.

I have turned even the most suspicious eater into an okra lover with this method. It’s crunchy and salty. What’s not to love?

PS If you decide okra is cool, try it roasted. Divine.

12 Responses to “okra in a flash”

  1. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme

    Being the good Southern girl that I am, I have of course being eating okra all my life. Fried is my favorite, followed closely by stewed with tomatoes, and boiled with peas or butterbeans. In the rural, most country-fied areas of the deepest South, we coat the okra with salt and finely ground white cornmeal only. No egg or flour involved. Then fry it in peanut oil. It’s kinda like the old Lay’s potato chip commercials – “bet you can’t eat just one!”

  2. Meg's Mom

    I agree with Lana, except I use just a coating of bacon grease and cook on a lower setting so that it doesn’t turn brown (black?) quickly. And, I salt AFTER cooking, not before. Cuts down on the fat, but is wonderful for finger food!

  3. Jennifer

    I love to roast them whole or add them sliced to sautes with squash or zucchini (with onions and garlic, of course.).

  4. Catherine Jordan

    If you steam the okra lightly – whole, in just a little salted water, not more than 3-5 minutes depending on the size and maturity of the pods – it’s not slimy in the least. The key is not too much water – just cover the bottom of the pan – and not to exceed 3-5 minutes; less is more in this case. To gild the lily, dress with lemon butter and a sprinkle of sea salt.

  5. Sylvie

    yum. I could eat an entire bowl of this! Last year, I skewered some okra, brushed with olive oil, seasoned it with cajun seasoning and grilled them. scrumptious!

    • Scott Johnston

      How does one pick out okra? Small, Medium, or large (or does it matter?. Can the last a few days before you cook them?

      • Cathy

        Any size will work. I love the small (1-1/2″) okras to fry whole. If they are large (5″ or more) make sure they are freshly picked and not woody. I’ve kept okra in the veg drawer for two weeks.

  6. Gail

    I don’t consider myself a big vegetable lover, as I loathe broccoli, hence my distrust of green vegetables, in particular. But not okra!
    These fried numbers look positively and divinely decadent!


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