I am seriously in love with Fried Green Tomatoes, or FGTs as we call them in our house. So much so, in fact, that I very audibly gasped when I spotted a box full of green tomatoes as we walked through a very chilly (44 degrees!) Farmer’s Market on a recent Saturday morning. I promptly ran to the ATM, as I had already burned through what little cash I had on hand, and snatched up a few ripe specimens. Well, technically, they are unripe specimens, but you know where I’m going here.
My first introduction to FGTs came in a manner that is probably similar to how many of you came to know of them – via the movie. TOWANDA!!! Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Then, on a family vacation to Savannah when I was 12, a vendor was selling the real deal along River Street. The fam wasn’t too excited about them, but I loved them. My parents should have been afraid, very afraid, of the young budding obsession for all things food that seemed to start to unfurl that day. Like I said, no one else was too keen on them, so I happily munched away.
A few years went by and when I saw volumes of green tomatoes left hanging on my parents’ tomato vines as the autumn chill started to set in, I immediately thought of FGTs. Through the magic of the internet, I was able to search (Google wasn’t part of the common vernacular back then) for a recipe and turned up one that proclaimed itself to be the original recipe of the Whistle Stop Café made famous by the film.
“I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”
I’ve made hundreds, maybe even thousands, of FGTs in the years since. (If you think I’m kidding or exaggerating, I actually went to the hospital after a major FGT fest last summer with an acute acid reflux attack. I really like them.) Over time, the original measurements and preparation instructions began to fade from memory and I developed my own style of making these. They may not be true to the Whistle Stop, but they are a definitive part of our summer cuisine. FGTs are one of the first things I make when the tomato crops start popping up mid-spring and they are among the last things I make as we close out another summer and usher in fall.
The perfect tomato is Granny Smith green, with just a hint of a rose blush. Sliced thickly, the tomatoes then soak in a buttermilk, garlic and hot sauce bath. Once fried, the crisp crunch of the cornmeal coating against the slightly softened tomato creates an amazing contrast. Drizzled with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice and several dashes of your favorite hot sauce, they are perfect as an appetizer, a side dish or your whole meal. Well, maybe not that last part unless you’ve got some Prilosec handy…
recipe: jb’s pour house
4-5 baseball sized (or larger!) green tomatoes
2 c. buttermilk
3-4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ c. yellow cornmeal
¾ c. all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon, cut into wedges
Hot sauce (recommended: Frank’s Red Hot)
Remove core from tomatoes and slice into ¼” to ½” rounds. Place a large resealable plastic bag into a mixing bowl. Place tomato slices, buttermilk, garlic cloves, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, and several dashes of hot sauce into bag. Seal, mix together, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 ½ hours.
Pour enough canola oil into a large skillet to measure approximately ½” up the side of the pan. Turn heat to medium high. Remove tomatoes from refrigerator. In another plastic bag, combine cornmeal, flour, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Mix to combine. Remove tomato slices from buttermilk and gently shake to remove excess liquid. Add about 4-5 tomato slices to cornmeal mixture at a time. Seal bag and shake to thoroughly coat tomato slices. Carefully add to hot oil and fry, about 4-5 minutes per side, until golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet and season lightly with salt. Repeat with remaining tomato slices, adding additional canola oil if needed.
Serve warm with lemon wedges and hot sauce.
All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house