A Bitten Word Recipe
We just returned from four days in Tennessee, visiting Zach's family. We had a great time! We rented kayaks and spent a lazy day on a (very mild) river. We toured the George Dickel whisky distillery in Zach's hometown and had a lot of great down-time just catching up with family.
And because we were with Zach's mom, who is an excellent cook, we did a fair amount of cooking and eating at home. She'd picked up a bunch of okra at the vegetable stand where she buys her produce, so we decided to make one of her favorite preparations of the vegetable: Smashed Okra.
If you love fried okra as much as we do, then you need to know about the smashed okra that Zach's mom makes. Typically, when you have okra, it's cut into small rounds which are fried individually. Or perhaps you've tried it in the form of okra fritters -- mashed into little patties and fried. We love both of those preparations, and they'll always have a place on our table in high summer, when okra is fresh and bountiful.
But we're making extra room at the table for smashed okra, and there are a few reasons why. For one thing, it's worlds easier. If your okra is young and tender enough, you don't even need to trim the tops. And without needing to do any other slicing, you cut out pretty much all the work.
The other reason why we're big on smashing is that it switches up the batter-to-okra ratio. Fried rounds or fritters taste good, but most of what you end up eating is batter. We happen to love the actual flavor of the okra itself, and smashing it means more okra flavor and less fried batter. And with less batter, can't we pretend it's healthier?
A word on the smashing: We're not talking about Gallagher-level whacks here. Just enough to flatten the okra pieces a bit. Pretty much anything in your kitchen can do the job -- a rolling pin, a mallet, the bottom of a small sauce pan. Whatever you've got.
And the best part of smashing is the actual, well, smashing. Trust us, if you've got a kid who wants to help cook -- or in our case, a tween nephew who was raring to help out in the kitchen -- turn him loose with okra and a mallet. They'll love it.
Once the okra is smashed, you simply dredge it in egg, then the flour/cornmeal mixture, and then let it rest for a few minutes. (That helps it dry out a little, which helps the batter crisp up.)
Then you fry it until golden brown, dry it on a paper towel, sprinkle it with a little salt and watch it disappear by the second.
Other Okra Recipes We Love
- Classic Fried Okra
- Okra Fritters
- Pan Roasted Okra and Corn
- Corn, Cranberry Bean and Fried Okra Salad
A Bitten Word Recipe
1 pound fresh okra
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh-ground black pepper
4 cups peanut oil
Wash okra and trim ends if needed. (If okra is young and fresh, the ends will be tender enough to eat and you need not trim them.)
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, cayenne, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. In another bowl, beat eggs. Set aside.
Working on a protected surface, such as a baking sheet, smash each piece of okra using a wooden mallet, rolling pin, the bottom of a frying pan, or a similar tool. Smash just hard enough to flatten the okra a bit. Dredge each piece of okra in egg and then in the flour mixture. Place on a baking sheet and let rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan or cast-iron skillet over medium high heat until oil pops and sizzles when a drop of water hits it.
Using a slotted spoon, carefully place okra in hot oil, working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, until batter is crisp and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Use slotted spoon to transfer fried okra to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with more salt, to taste.