Down South, when a big storm is about to come (though usually a summer storm), you prepare for “thunder and lightning,” meaning making a dish that consists of you running outside and picking whatever vegetables that might be tossed around in the storm. Summer storms are long gone, but since subfreezing temps are here, even occasionally, it’s time to do some thunder and lightning cooking: here and in the next several editions.
And speaking of the South, one of my new favorite cookbooks is SOUTH by Chef Sean Brock. His recipe here is for the green tomatoes that I rescued off the vine before the freeze. There are some extra steps that he takes (his fried chicken, which I’ll share later) takes more than two days to prepare. But that’s the pace of the South. And worth every bite.
1 ½ cups full-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like Sriracha)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 ½ pounds medium green tomatoes, cored and cut into
½ -inch - thick slices
1 ½ cups fine yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/ 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup canola oil
Chow chow or pepper Jelly
Combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl.
Add the green tomato slices and toss to coat. Let them marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, occasionally turning the tomatoes to ensure they’re evenly coated.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, the remaining tablespoon of salt, and the pepper in a shallow baking dish.
Working with one slice at a time, shake off any excess buttermilk from the tomatoes, dredge in the cornmeal mixture, shake off any excess, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Overbreading the tomatoes is not a good idea, as much as you might love the breading. It covers up the taste of the tomato and will typically separate from the tomato and fall off if too heavy.
Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and let the slices rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Fifteen minutes before frying, remove the tomatoes from the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 200. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels.
Heat the canola oil in a large deep cast-iron skillet (you can substitute lard for one-third of the oil if you are so inclined) and heat over medium heat to 350.
It’s important when frying to use a candy thermometer, because tweaking the flame and the amount of tomatoes going in to maintain the 350 temp is critical to the texture and doneness of the tomato and breading.
Working in batches, without crowding the pan, fry the tomatoes until crispy and golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes; using a fork, carefully turn the tomatoes over half way through frying to ensure that they cook evenly.
When they are done, transfer the tomatoes to the prepared baking sheet, season lightly with salt, and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining slices.
I served them with a little chow chow and pepper jelly (next week’s recipe), but these are terrific in a BLT, a salad, or served with a flavored mayonnaise - they’re a bit of a blank canvas.
Thunder and Lightning #2 - Save the Peppers!