"It's good, but it's NOT fried chicken." Oh, what does he know?! I don't know how to deep fry, and besides, real fried chicken can't taste THAT much better than crispy "oven fried" boneless skinless chicken breast. Right?
I never thought I'd marry a Southerner, let alone move to the Deep South! Never say never. I did it, and I'm so glad. I've never been happier. An especially noteworthy day in my assimilation to Charleston was the very first day I got here -- the very first day I had actual fried chicken. And not fast food, either. OH. MY. GOSH. Keith was right. My oven fried version tasted good, but it WASN'T fried chicken. I think I had fried chicken every day that first summer. And somehow, I didn't gain much weight. I didn't lose any, but I didn't gain that much, either. I think it was a glorious act of God.
Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that fresh summer tomatoes are my most favorite food (now next to real fried chicken!). So imagine my surprise when fried green tomatoes started popping up on the menus of virtually every restaurant we went to. Green? And fried? Why would anyone ruin the potential of a perfectly good tomato like that? What is the fascination here? You can't do better than the flavor of a ripe red 'mater! You just can't.
Of course I had to try them. Well. Now this is something else entirely! Tangy on the inside, crispy and salty on the outside. And in today's world of food fusion, your classic Southern specialty takes on whatever role you give it, making it ubiquitous appetizer fare. Italian served with marinara sauce. Straight out of New Orleans with a tangy remoulade. Even accompanied by bacon and lettuce for a truly amazing twist on the BLT. They're even good naked!
OK, so now I have two new loves. Fried chicken and fried green tomatoes. Neither even remotely svelte. What's a newly Southern girl to do?! Reinvent, of course!
The true test? Keith. And he says my "Unfried Green Tomatoes" taste better than the ones we get in restaurants. And they're baked! I prefer these without sauce, but anything goes. The sauce on the ones pictured here was a puree of random ingredients I had in the fridge -- onions, apricot preserves, Sriracha, lime juice, and what else? Tomatoes! Red ones for the sauce. It was tasty, but I still preferred them naked. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!
Unfried Green Tomatoes
2 large green tomatoes
1 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded, NOT grated)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Olive oil or cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mist a baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Slice tomatoes between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Beat egg. Combine Parmesan cheese, panko and spices. Dip each tomato slice in the egg, then into the breading mixture, pressing to coat both sides. Place breaded slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Mist tops with olive oil or cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. No need to flip them.
So now I'm torn. Pick the unripe tomatoes to make this recipe, or let them ripen into their full, red deliciousness? Urg. Anyway, y'all let me know what you think!
P.S. I'm still working on the chicken. Stay tuned!
For more "magic" recipes, The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.