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Like a Hair in a Biscuit

Gluten-Free Beer-Battered Fried Okra

BN HeardI’m from the South, we eat okra. We roast it, boil it, pickle it and fry it. Every Sunday after church, my grandmama would have fried chicken, green beans and fried okra with cornbread.

Now that I think about it, I worry that Grandmama’s range was a bit narrow. She would on rare occasions break out that gelatinous pink stuff with strawberries in it that was a favorite at church picnics, decoration days, funerals and family reunions.

The “Pink Stuff” seemed to be her go-to dish for crowds. However, I remember her for her fried chicken, green beans and fried okra.

Grandmama’s fried okra was cornmeal based and didn’t look like what a lot of folks think of when they think of fried okra. It looked like someone had thrown a handful of sand into a bunch of okra and shook it up. I will say this – I loved it.

I have to be careful when frying things now because we have discovered that one of our children seems to have a sensitivity to gluten. It’s one of those things that I don’t understand, but if it makes her feel better – that’s all that matters.

You can read more about gluten intolerance and Celiac disease here.

I’m supposed to be a scientist, but my specialty is really mathematics and space stuff. As the son of an Auburn University home economics major and grandson of a Pink Stuff Extraordinaire, I ought to be able to figure out things like this.

This recipe is something that I came up with on my own and it turned out wonderful; I thought I would share it with you.

Please note that I would probably have points deducted on any of those cooking show competitions for my lack of precision in most of my recipes. I can live with that.

So here is my simple recipe for “Gluten-Free Beer-Battered Fried Okra Rockets.”

Why “Rockets?” Well, I have spent about 25 years in the aerospace world. I was also too lazy to cut the okra – thus we had “rockets.”

Gluten Free Beer Batter Ingredients (Note: Not showing Baking Powder)

Gluten Free Beer Battered Fried Okra Rockets

Batter:

1 cup white rice flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup corn flour (I use Maseca Instant Corn Flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder (It is gluten free, normally all of it is)
2 cans gluten-free beer (I used Redbridge Gluten Free Sorghum Beer)
Salt (for the batter and after you’ve fried it)
Pepper (I grind enough to know it’s there, it’s a preference thing)

I needed two beers to get the batter thin enough. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter. I suppose you could put cayenne pepper in the batter if you wish, but I didn’t.

Why Redbridge Sorghum Beer? It was one of my two choices of gluten-free beer and it had a picture of a red covered bridge on it. I love covered bridges and I’ve always loved sorghum syrup.

Vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet heated to 375 F or so (I used “medium” on my gas range). If I had peanut oil, I would have probably used it, just because I like it.

After dipping the whole okra in the beer batter, I simply used tongs to put them in the oil. Frying is an art, you have to learn not to burn things, but also fry food long enough. Pretty good instructions, don’t you think? I do it by sight.

After bringing them out of the oil, I let them dry out a little on a paper towel (I’m not sure what brand of paper towels). After a little kosher salt, you are ready to enjoy Gluten-Free Beer-Battered Fried Okra Rockets invented by a rocket scientist.

Gluten Free Beer Battered Fried Okra Rockets

I’m sure you could cut the okra before you battered it, but it seemed to me that it would be too much trouble and would have made a bigger mess going into and coming out of the skillet.

If you try my invention, let me know how it goes …

We ate these okra rockets as a predecessor to a crab boil, they were a perfect appetizer.

Yes, I put carrots in my Crab Boil

Whether you are just hanging out, hanging in there or hanging on – do it “Like a Hair in a Biscuit.” If you’ve ever seen one; you know what I mean.

BN Heard

Worm Poop, Kale and Hammered Turnip Greens

BN HeardMy family and I love going to the Farmers' Market each Saturday morning in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. We get a cup of coffee, study folks’ dogs and buy things we can’t live without like boiled peanuts.

The Williamsburg Farmers Market is a wonderful place to study people, plants and poop. That’s right – poop! My gardening is limited to growing stuff in pots, but I still take every opportunity I can to learn new things.

Worm Poop
Selling Worm Poop at the Williamsburg (Virginia) Farmers' Market

On this particular morning, I studied the “Worm Poop” that the folks from the Moose Hill Worm Farm sell. The “Worm Farmer,” Bill Clark, used to be an air traffic controller, so it makes perfectly good sense to me that he transitioned into worm farming in Gloucester, Virginia.

Doesn’t it to you?

Mr. Clark, or perhaps it would be better to say, Mr. Clark’s worms produce worm poop that he sells as a soil amendment rich in all kinds of nutrients. Evidently, these worm castings help plants suck in all the essential things they need to grow bigger and faster and prettier.

Mr. Clark keeps coming back each Saturday morning, so I’d say his worms’ poop must work pretty well.

I love kale, I love making kale chips; I love it so much that I sometimes buy too much. On this particular Saturday, I was attracted to the “Dinosaur Kale.” I had read about it, but hadn’t seen it at the farmers' market before. Dinosaur kale is also known as Tuscan kale or Lacinato kale.

Dinosaur Kale
Dinosaur Kale or Tuscan Kale is sweeter and more delicate

This particular kale gets its dinosaur moniker due to the bumpy look of its leaves. It does look somewhat “prehistoric.”

Lacinato kale is often used in such Italian dishes as minestrone or ribollita (twice cooked soup). Compared to other kale varieties, it has a somewhat sweeter and more delicate taste. You wouldn’t think that something that looked like a dinosaur’s skin would be sweet or delicate.

I also brought home a nice little bunch of baby turnips. Turnips are something that some city folks won’t touch. I don’t understand it – they are scrumptious.

Turnips are also pretty forgiving in the kitchen, in my opinion.

My preference is to roast them. I started mine off in a cast-iron frying pan with butter and sugar and allowing my concoction to caramelize. Then I added a little balsamic vinegar and put them in a baking dish to roast for a little while.

Greens from Baby Turnips
Greens from Baby Turnips begging for a shot of rum

Please note that I never keep up with how much I use or how long I cook things. I use what I have, taste it and “eyeball” it while it cooks. It’s what my mama did – it’s what I do.

A couple of times (maybe just once), I spooned the sauce back over the turnips while they were roasting. When they finished, I threw in some roasted butternut squash and served the mixture over polenta. Everything goes better with grits.

Hammered turnip greens?

Sure… just add rum …

As I was cooking the greens from the baby turnips, I poured in a little rum. No recipe – it was just on the kitchen counter. The rum looked like it wanted to get in the cast-iron skillet with the greens. I added capers and some diced onions to the greens as they cooked. Right before I “bowled them,” I hit them with a squeeze of lemon. The lemon juice is my secret ingredient.

At least it was the secret ingredient on this day, because a lemon was on the counter. I do enjoy a splash of lemon on turnip and beet greens. Try it sometime …

Whether you are just hanging out, hanging in there or hanging on – do it “Like a Hair in a Biscuit.”  If you’ve ever seen one; you know what I mean.

BN Heard