Heaven on a Plate


Polly Rogers BrownDo you conjure up winter dreams of summer foods that make you weak-kneed with desire?  I get that way around this time of year when I remember green fried tomatoes.  First, I apologize to my southern friends who order this delicacy year around from their local eatery and fork it up with their grits and biscuits with barely a thought.  I’ve had a plate of your version on my infrequent visits to your neck of the woods.  The reaction has always been disbelief that you guys really like these little discs of light green blandness and actually reorder on return visits.

Here’s the other side of the story.  Michigan green fried tomatoes are only available in individual farm kitchens from the middle of August until hard frost.  They are gathered from the sunny side of the garden after the vines have fully matured and ripe tomatoes have become the norm, not the miracle they were when they first appeared.  Only certain green tomatoes make the cut.  Nothing hard and lumpy and misshapen will do.  The fruit must be voluptuous and full, showing a hint of pink on the bottom and a darker shade of pale orange on the inside when it is sliced. 

One or two eligible tomatoes are only enough to annoy one; there must be several to slice and fry, preferably in ample quantity to assure a dozen or so slices per diner, with a plate of extras to cool and save for breakfast when it will be eaten cold with equal fervor.

Now begins the ritual, the slow dance in which the cook engages with the mound of prime tomatoes.

First, the large, ancestral Griswold iron skillet is placed on the largest burner of the range to heat slowly.  A large pie pan has a cup of flour spread on the bottom for dredging the slices.  Then the tomatoes are cut into three or four slices, with the crown and blossom end sliced off leaving the meaty centers exposed.  Each slice is dipped in flour and transferred to a platter to grow a bit gummy as the juice blends with the coating.

Then the oil is added to the skillet.  The best oil is light and delicate, allowing the heady tomato flavor to dominate.  When it is just short of smoking hot, the tomato slices are arranged in the pan.  Then patience must be exercised.  No peeking is allowed.  No surreptitious lifting of the slice in the middle to check the bottom for color.  When the slices are adequately browned the cook feels it in her bones.   There is a certain look the beautiful little circles take on when the bottoms are crisp and a golden brown that starts to climb up the sides and signals that it is time to turn the slices. 

1/25/2019 3:23:45 PM

Well, that's definitely one way to do it. I grew up eating fried green tomatoes, can't stand red ones at all. But I don't recall our tomatoes ever having to be perfectly shaped before frying them, but then again, that was left up to my folks, I generally helped to fry them or just ate them. But we used corn meal & put a dash or 2 of pepper on them (& sometimes salt). definitely were cooked to perfection in a cast iron pan. I wouldn't trust eating a green fried tomato in a restaurant. At a family or friend's home.......yep. Don't think fried green tomatoes would be all that tasty after being frozen. (folks are from Neb/Okla) but I'm in the west :o) alli

1/25/2019 8:49:58 AM

Polly, I agree with you. The perfect tomato for frying should be the plush pink ones. The rock hard green tomatoes are compost material for me. Yes, now you have made my taste buds wish it was July when tomato harvesting begins here in Nebraska. I'm guessing fried tomatoes don't freeze well. ***** Have a great Winter wishing for fried green tomatoes day. ***** Nebraska Dave

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