In the middle of two years of non-stop plowing through graduate school, I recently did something crazy. After the end of my last semester of classes, I received a book from the library – and I read for pleasuree. A fun book. A book that I didn’t have to quote, study or even really understand. It was surprising.
In my literary bliss, I recognized the sense of vertigo my college-age daughters feel as they happily devour fiction while learning about authors and entire genres through TikTok. Books and food go together like Proust and madelines or Maurice Sendak and chicken rice soup. And so, in a literary mood, one morning at the farmer’s market, I picked up some green tomatoes and did what I knew I had to do.
Because I haven’t read Fannie Flagg’s LGBTQ classic”Fried green tomatoes at Whistle Stop Cafe“in several years, I can’t say how well it’s aged. I do know, however, that the title alone is enough to make readers crave Southern American dinner classics, such as Stewed Pork, Okra with butter and spoon bread. And, of course, fried green tomatoes. Coated in flour and cornmeal, green tomatoes hold their shape better than their melty red sisters, but they’re still juicy to bite into. ‘other words, it’s a cheap, humble dish that tastes like a million bucks.
Building on the success of the Oscar-nominated film adaptation of her novel, Flagg published a cookbook in 1995, inspired by the real Alabama coffee who had been his muse. “A pitcher of sweet iced tea and a plate of fried green tomatoes turned out to be a deliciously flavorful and light summer supper on nights when it was so hot you didn’t fancy a heavy meal,” a- she writes wistfully, before divulging not one, not two but three unique preparations for the dish.
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Tonight, grab some sliced ham and coleslaw from the deli counter, brew some sweet tea, and let what’s usually an appetizer or side dish be the crunchy star of the show. Dinner will be ready in 15 minutes, giving you that much more time to curl up with a good book later.
Recipe: Classic Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes
Inspired by Sarah Quesenberry of Real Singles and Fannie Flagg’s Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook
Line a big hob with parchment. Slice the tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. Gently dab the slices on both sides with paper towel and set aside on the baking sheet. This helps prevent numbness.
Put the flour, cornmeal and eggs in 3 separate pie plates or shallow bowls.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
While the oil is heating, dip the tomatoes first in the flour, then in the eggs, then in the cornmeal, making sure each slice is evenly coated.
- Working in batches, fry the tomato slices until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Return the fried slices to the pan as you go.
Season with salt and pepper and serve hot with hot sauce, ranch dressing, spicy mayonnaise or whatever you like.
For maximum crunch, I use coarse cornmeal.
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