One of the coolest things about starting and maintaining this blog is how comfortable I’ve become in my southern cooking skin. When I started this blog I set out with a vague, insecure knowledge of southern cooking. I’d been eating southern food my whole life and watching it cooked and made, but I can really credit this website with helping me come into my own as a southern cook. It’s been a wonderful tool that’s allowed me to develop as a chef, a writer, and a photographer. I’ve been surprised and proud at how the ratio has shifted to the point where I’m writing most of the recipes I post on this website.
Last week I bought a basket of green tomatoes at the farmers market. I used one for the fried green tomato and arugula salad I made last weekend, but I still had two left over. I started to mull over what I could do with them (besides just making fried green tomatoes), because I didn’t want them to go to waste. Since I agreed to guest blog for The Love List a few weeks ago, I made the decision that I would cook a southern meal every Saturday night so that there would be a steady stream of recipes for both b&s as well as the other sites that I write for.
I didn’t want to use the tomatoes in an appetizer, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to incorporate them into the main course so I went out on a limb- I decided to make dessert tomatoes. My logic was that green tomatoes don’t really have a strong flavor one way or the other. The essence of fried green tomatoes comes from the spices you use- the tomato is really just the vessel. So I figured if I spiced the tomato with sweet and dessert spices, and served it with ice cream, I could pull it off.
Let me tell you friends, I am SO glad I went out on that limb. It was incredible. Traditionally fried green tomatoes are coated in a three step process- a dip in flour, a dip in egg, and a dip in cornmeal. This gives them a nice layered coating that provides the perfect crunch. For the first step I combined flour, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Then, I made homemade caramel (so worth the extra work). I whisked the caramel in with the egg. Finally, I mixed together cornmeal and graham cracker crumbs so that the tomato was covered in subtle sweetness on all sides. After it was fried I served it with vanilla ice cream and drizzled the whole situation with more homemade caramel. And it was divine.
Caramel Fried Green Tomatoes and Ice Cream
For the caramel:
2 cups sugar
4 tbsp water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the tomatoes:
1 whole green tomato
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 graham crackers, crushed
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Ice cream (recipe here)
Peanut oil for frying
To start, we’ll make the caramel. Here is my advice for the caramel- just trust the directions and let it happen. The first time I made caramel at home I was a ball of doubtful stress, checking the recipe book every two seconds to try and figure out WHAT WAS GOING WRONG. It turns out nothing, I’m just crazy.
Pull out the most heavy-duty pan in your arsenal (at least 1 1/2 inches deep). Combine the sugar and water. Have the cream on hand. For the next ten minutes or so, you’re just going to stir the sugar and water with a wooden spoon. Pretty quickly the sugar and water will liquify and come to a boil. When the water boils off, the sugar will return to a solid state. Don’t panic- you did nothing wrong. Just keep stirring. Sugar doesn’t melt until a temperature of 365 degrees (something Dan found out the hard way when he touched a sugar-coated spoon). As you continue to stir, the sugar should slowly start to melt and darken.
When it’s totally melted and the color of peanut butter, it’s time to add the cream. Brace yourself. This will seem unnatural and you’re going to want to panic. Pour the cream in all at once and stir rapidly. It’s going to start to bubble and steam like crazy. Just try your best to keep stirring. It may seem like it’s going to bubble over (and it may, a little) but resist the urge to start scooping it out into the sink. Your stove will survive a little sugar spill over. Keep stirring until it has stopped boiling completely. Remove from heat and let it cool for 10-15 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Pour it into a glass bowl and set it aside.
Now for the tomatoes. Set up three bowls in a row. In the first bowl combine flour, sugar, and spices. In the second bowl combine eggs and a few tablespoons of caramel- whisk together well. In the last bowl combine cornmeal and graham cracker crumbs.
Heat your oil. You want it to be at least 350. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you want it to bubble enthusiastically when you dip the end of a wooden spoon into it.
Slice your tomato. Dip the slices first in the flour mix, then in the egg mix, and finally in the graham cracker mix. Drop them into the hot oil and fry until brown.
Serve with vanilla ice cream. Drizzle caramel over the whole bowl for a delicious dessert.