I have never seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, and I’ve always wondered if maybe I was missing something. More than that, though, I’ve paused more than once when I hear the title. Do you people actually eat green tomatoes? Is that really a thing? For the longest time, I never knew if it was a real dish, or just a catchy name for a movie. At some point, I realized that fried green tomatoes were, indeed, something people ate, but I had zero interest in trying them, given my dislike for tomatoes in general.
That all changed last fall when my Chief Culinary Consultant and I were in DC for the weekend and met up with some friends for dinner at Lightfoot Restaurant in Leesburg, VA. It’s a fabulous restaurant that I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself in that area. We ordered a ton of appetizers to share, including fried green tomatoes. I wasn’t going to try them, but the jalapeño cheddar and chili cream sauce on top reeled me in. Truth be told, they were fabulous. As soon as we got home, I wanted to try making them myself, but the garden was already done for the year, so I waited… And here we are!
My mom graciously donated a few of her green tomatoes to me so I could finally make my own fried green tomatoes. These tomatoes are incredibly easy to make and are a perfect appetizer, light lunch or side dish. The baking powder and baking soda in the egg and buttermilk mixture gives the fried tomato a light and crispy texture, while the cornmeal added to the final flour mixture makes them crunchy, as well.
(I ran out of cornmeal and substituted panko bread crumbs for what was missing, and I think it was a fine substitution.)
You can serve these plain (we ate them like this, straight from the pan), or with a dipping sauce. I loved the sauce that was served at the restaurant, but I couldn’t remember it well enough to recreate it; a simple marinara sauce would be great, as well as a spicy cream sauce.
I sometimes resist things that I’m convinced I’m going to dislike, but I’m thankful that I gave fried green tomatoes a try; now I know what I was missing!
Whisk together the remaining 1½ cups flour, the cornmeal, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a second large shallow dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, baking powder and baking soda (the mixture may bubble and foam).
Working with several slices at a time, coat the tomatoes in the flour and shake any excess flour from each piece. Using tongs, dip the tomatoes into the buttermilk mixture, turning to coat and allowing the excess to drip off. Coat the tomato slices with the seasoned flour-cornmeal mixture, shaking off any excess. Place the tomatoes on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tomato slices.
Pour enough oil into a 12-inch cast iron skillet to measure ⅓-inch in depth. Heat the oil over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F, 3 to 4 minutes. Gently lay a single layer of tomato slices in the oil (be sure not to crowd the pan) and turn the heat down to medium. Fry until the tomatoes are a deep, golden brown on the first side, 2 to 2½ minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the oil at a temperature of 350 degrees. Gently turn the tomato slices over with tongs and fry until the second side is a deep, golden brown, 2 to 2½ minutes longer. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels and cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining slices, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the oil at a temperature of 350 degrees. Serve immediately.