Out of the Archives 4: Eat Your Greens, pt. 2

Here's another must-read/must-see/must-try from the archives.  It first appeared 5 years ago to the day, on November 13, 2010.  As was the case in 2010, now's the time--there are plenty of green tomatoes around, and you can often get them for a song.

fig. a:  time to fry

fig. a:  time to fry

There are still some real green tomatoes kicking around. In fact, depending on where you live, there might still be loads of them. And, along with making your own chowchow, frying them is a pretty great way to make use of the last of the tomato harvest. But even if you find that the green tomatoes in your area have already disappeared, all is not lost. As the Lee Bros. point out, your standard supermarket tomato is effectively a green tomato--it certainly was picked green (generally, very green). So you may need to add a bit of lemon juice and some salt to your sliced supermarket tomatoes to coax out a little flavor and approximate the wonderful, citrusy tartness of a true green tomato, but fried green tomatoes are a classic Southern side that you can make pretty much all year long. If you want to make the real deal, however, and I strongly advise giving them a try, local green tomatoes were still available here in Montreal this week. And their bright, tangy flavor this late in the year made it feel like we were cheating the approach of winter somehow. If only for a moment.

Note: you also need some decent cornmeal to make these fried green tomatoes, and good cornmeal can be hard to find in the Montreal region. The best brand we've been able to locate around here is Indian Head Stone Ground Yellow from Maryland, available at Aubut

fig. b:  B Bros.

fig. b:  B Bros.

Even better is Beattie Bros., which is owned by the same parent company, but produced in North Carolina. Though, as far as we know, you can only get Beattie Bros. in the States.

Fried Green Tomatoes

3 lbs green tomatoes
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
3-4 cups peanut oil
3 batches fry dredge (recipe follows)
kosher salt, if needed
lemon juice, if needed

Core the stem ends of the tomatoes and slice them in 1/4-inch slices. Set aside. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a broad, shallow bowl.

Pour the oil in a 12-inch or 14-inch skillet (3 cups of oil will suffice for the 12-inch skillet; 4 cups should do for the 14-inch skillet, and the 14-inch skillet will make the task of frying 3 lbs of tomatoes much, much faster--ultimately, whatever size skillet you use, you need an oil depth of about 1/3 of an inch). Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 350º-365º.

Heat the oven to 225 degrees. Set a baker's rack on a cookie sheet on the top rack.

Divide the dredge between two small bowls or shallow baking pans. Taste the tomatoes. "They should have a bright tartness like citrus fruit." If they don't, sprinkle the slices with salt and lemon juice (if you're using supermarket tomatoes, this additional lemon and salt will be necessary). Press 1 tomato slice into the first bowl of dredge on each side, shaking any excess loose. Dunk in the egg mixture, then place in the second bowl of dredge, coating both sides, and shaking any excess loose, before placing the slice on a clean plate. Repeat with more slices until you've dredged enough for a batch (roughly 8-10, if you're using the 14-inch skillet). With a spatula, gently transfer the first batch of slices into the hot oil, taking care not to create splatter, and making sure your temperature continues to hover between 350º-365º.

As the first batch cooks, dredge the second batch according to the directions above, while keeping a watchful eye on the first. Once the slices have fried to a rich golden brown on one side, roughly 2 minutes, flip them carefully and fry for another 2 minutes or so, or until golden brown. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels and leave them to drain for 1 minute.

Transfer the slices to the baker's rack in the oven, arranging them in a single layer, so they remain warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining slices until all the green tomatoes have been fried. Serve hot with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing (recipe follows).

All-Purpose Dredge

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp stone-ground cornmeal
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper together twice. Stir. Use as directed.

This is a great all-around frying dredge. The Lee Bros. use this very recipe for everything from chicken, to fish, to fried green tomatoes.

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing

3/4 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (preferably the former)
5 tbsp freshly squeeze lime juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup finely minced basil
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
1/4 cup finely minced parsley
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator not more than 2 days.

[these recipes are based very, very closely on ones that appeared in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook]

These fried tomatoes make for a fantastic side with any number of dishes, Southern or otherwise. We love 'em with seafood, but then we've been known to have them with barbecue too, and I could easily imagine having them as part of a Thanksgiving dinner. Leftover fried green tomatoes taste pretty outrageous on top of a leftover pulled pork sandwich, too. Especially if you drizzle a little of that Buttermilk-Lime Dressing on top. Just take a look:

fig. c:  deluxe pulled pork sandwich

fig. c:  deluxe pulled pork sandwich

Oh, and speaking of Thanksgiving and the Lee Bros.: if you haven't had the pleasure of reading Matt and Ted's New York Times exposé on Marilyn Monroe's stuffing recipe from 1955-6 (as it appears in Fragments, a just-published collection of previously unreleased Monroe ephemera), you really should. Not only is it a great read, but Marilyn's recipe is both mysterious (ground beef? Parmesan? City Title Insurance Co.?) and tantalizing. Just look at that picture. Just look at that recipe


p.s. Looking for "eat your greens 1"? You can find it here.

Apple Season, pt. 1: apples & chorizo

fig. a:  autumn still life, Vermont

fig. a:  autumn still life, Vermont

It may be better known for its dairy and its maple syrup, but if you're an apple lover--and I most definitely am*--Vermont stands out as a true Apple Paradise even in a region that's famed for its prodigious apple harvests (think Quebec, think New York, think Ontario).  

For a relatively small state, with a very small population, Vermont produces a lot of apples.  But even more impressive is the sheer variety of apples that are on offer at your local orchards, at your local farmers markets, and at your local co-ops.  Check out the Onion River Co-op (a.k.a., City Market) in Burlington, or the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier if you really want to see an astounding selection of apples.  Look for apples from Champlain Orchards or, better yet, Scott Farm, whose orchards are managed by a legendary orchardist named Zeke Goodband who hosts an annual Heirloom Apple Day every October over Columbus Day Weekend, drawing generously from the 110+ varieties (!) they produce.**

 Hunger Mountain Co-op alone carries upwards of 20 different varieties of Scott Farm heirlooms at this time of year, in addition to a wide selection of non-heirlooms, like McIntoshes, Macouns, and Paulareds.  Some of our favourites include Cox's Orange Pippin, Esopus Spitzenburg, Fameuse (the "famous" heirloom varietal of Quebec, and one that happens to be notoriously difficult to actually find in Quebec), Ashmead's Kernel, Northern Spy, and Belle de Boskoop, which may just be the ultimate apple for strudel and apple pie (Michelle certainly seems to think so these days).

fig. b:  apples of uncommon character

fig. b:  apples of uncommon character

And if you'd like some help making sense of this cornucopia (we certainly did), there's no better guide than Rowan Jacobsen's Apples of Uncommon Character:  123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics, and Little-Known Wonders (Bloomsbury, 2014).  As it turns out, Jacobsen lives in Washington County, Vermont, not far from our place, but we fell in love with his book before we knew that, and months before we actually got to know him and his family.  

On some level, Jacobsen is a product of Vermont's apple obsession, as is his book.  Jacobsen is an authority on the subject, and an amateur orchardist himself.  But he also had access to a wide range of local and regional expert (including Goodband) when he was researching this book, and he didn't have to venture far to find most of the 123 varieties that Apples of Uncommon Character features.  

In any case, Jacobsens's book is both fascinating and incredibly informative, and its categorizations (which varieties appear early?  which are the best for baking?  which make the tastiest cider?  which keep the best in your cellar? etc.) are terribly useful for people like us who use apples in a wide variety of preparations (pies and desserts, soups and savoury dishes, preserves and pickles, salads, etc.).  It's also beautifully written for a book that's essentially a field guide, not to mention lushly illustrated.  And if all that wasn't enough, it ends with 20 sweet and savoury recipes, many of which are of an uncommon character themselves.

fig. c:  the spy that came in from the cold

fig. c:  the spy that came in from the cold

One of our absolute favourites from this book is a recipe that works particularly well with a somewhat tart apple, like a Northern Spy.  It's Jacobsen's take on a classic dish from Asturia--Spain's famed cider-producing region--and one that is testament to the ages-old, but still passionate love affair between apples and pork:  Chorizo with Apples.  It only takes minutes to make, and it's insanely delicious.  The addition of apple cider, makes the end result "more apple than apple."  The combination of the warmth of the paprika, the sweetness of the apples and onions, the olive oil, and the pork fat makes for an utterly seductive sauce that you'll want to sop up every last drop of.

fig. d:  apple hearts sausage

fig. d:  apple hearts sausage

Chorizo with Apples

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 lb chorizo (preferably a high-quality Spanish version), cut into half-inch slices

1/2 onion, sliced

1 cup dry hard cider

1 apple (preferably something a little on the tart side, like a Northern Spy), cored and sliced

parsley for garnish

Heat oil in a skillet, add chorizo and sauté until brown. Turn and brown the other side.

Add onion and cider, cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add apple and cook another 6 minutes, stirring, until sauce is thick.

Garnish with parsley and serve with a crusty loaf of bread, the better to sop up all that beautiful sauce with.  

This dish is a perfect fall appetizer, especially served with a crisp hard apple cider or a crisp white wine on a crisp autumn evening.  Lay it out with some sliced sourdough bread, a plate of mixed olives, and a small cheese plate, and your meal will be off to a fantastic start.



* At this time of year, when the apples are particularly fresh and crispy, it's not uncommon for me to eat 4 or 5 in a row after dinner, in addition to the 2 or 3 apples I might have at other times over the course of the day.  

** We were so blown away by the Scott Farm apples we tried last fall, that this spring we took a pruning and grafting workshop with Mr. Goodband in the very early spring, when southeastern Vermont was still blanketed in snow.  This being Vermont, not only was our workshop leader named Ezekiel "Zeke" Goodband, not only did he sport a beard worthy of the Old Testament, but his pruning and grafting lessons were delivered in the form of anti-capitalist parables.

fig. e:  Grafting by Goodband

fig. e:  Grafting by Goodband

Lo and behold, a few months later, our apple trees blossomed in a way they hadn't in years.

fig. f:  spring blossoms

fig. f:  spring blossoms