Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fried Okra

Fresh okra, tossed with a simple breading and fried until golden brown. This comfort food favorite is a cinch to make and very economical! 

Last week was insanely muggy around here. I had planned to barbecue early last week, but it was just too hot to mess with it. As we got near the weekend, the weather started to cool down, so my husband and I decided to barbeque one evening and experiment with a new recipe. While the meat was on the grill, I fried up a quick batch of okra.

Speaking of weather...it's supposed to be really nice this week. We opened our windows last night and it felt like a cool, fall morning when I got up this morning.

Okay, back to the okra...

Frying okra is pretty simple, but there are a few tricks to get it right. I use half flour, half cornmeal in my breading--I feel it adheres better than straight cornmeal. I always season the breading instead of seasoning afterwards. All it needs is a little salt, pepper and paprika. The Paprika is totally optional, it won't make or break the dish if you don't have it.  Paprika gives food a great color and adds just a hint of smoky flavor that I think goes well with the fried food.

I rarely fry food since it tends to be messy and a bit dangerous (oil pops...and sometimes pops at you and burns). When I do fry, I prefer to shallow fry. For this recipe, I only use enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Since I cut the okra into pretty small pieces, very little oil is needed.

To Prepare the okra: soak in buttermilk and coat in breading mixture, then allow to sit for 3-5 minutes while the oil heats up. Once you have breaded your okra (or anything you are frying for that matter) it is best to shake off the excess and then spread on a pan and allow to sit for 3-5 minutes (or while your oil heats up). This allows the the milk and breading to gel together and stay on while frying. If you throw the okra immediately into the hot oil, much of the breading will come off and settle in the bottom of the pan (making a mess and burning). I have made that mistake several times when I was in a hurry and didn't want to wait. You will get a better product in the end if you let it sit those extra five minutes.

While the okra is sitting, pour canola oil (or oil of choice) into a frying pan. Just enough so that it covers the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium to medium-high heat until oil starts to "shimmer." I like to test to the oil with one piece of okra. If the oil starts to sizzle once the okra hits, it is ready. Spoon the okra into the pan and spread out evenly (you may have to fry okra in 2-3 batches).  Fry for 3-5 minutes until golden and turn. Fry on the other side an additional 3-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before enjoying!

Frying tips: always stand away when frying and monitor the heat of your oil, it needs to hot enough to "sizzle" and brown the okra, but if it stops popping, turn the heat down. I have an electric stove top and I find that it is hard to control the heat levels when frying. It usually takes a moment for the cook top to cool down to the correct temperature. I typically start heating the oil up on medium-high, but turn down to medium once it's reached temperature. Every stove top is different, you kind of have to play around to figure out the perfect settings.


Fried Okra

  • 1/2 pound okra, cut into small pieces--about 2 cups chopped
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika (optional)
  • Vegetable or canola oil for frying


1. Wash okra thoroughly; pat dry with paper towels. Slice okra into 1/2 pieces. Transfer okra to a small mixing bowl. Pour buttermilk over okra and stir until coated. Allow okra to soak in the buttermilk while you prepare the breading.

2. In a shallow dish (I like to use a pie plate), mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and paprika until blended. Drain okra and toss with breading mixture. Use a slotted spoon to transfer okra to a cookie sheet, shaking off any excess breading. Spread okra out onto cookie sheet and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes.

3. In a deep frying pan, pour oil until it barely covers the bottom. Heat over medium to medium-high heat. Once the oil start to shimmer, add the okra to frying pan. Fry okra in batches to ensure even cooking. Fry 3-5 minutes and turn okra over using spoon or a spatula. Fry an additional 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer okra to a plate lined with paper towels. Allow okra to drain and cool before eating, about 5 minutes.

Yields: 3-4 servings

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