By Erica H.
(UPDATED! Because both of my parents individually contacted me within five minutes of publication to let me know I had left out a step. Eagle-eyed about food, my family.)
We've covered okra in this space before, but around these parts there tends to be significantly more okra than there are ways of dealing with okra. Any box of local produce I get in late summer is going to have okra. A whole big bag of it.
Would you say I have a...plethora of okra?
So the standard thing, the regular thing, the ONLY thing (it often seems) is to bust out the cornmeal and the vegetable oil and go to town. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Here, for example, is how my folks do it:
- Chop it into one-inch chunks, not rings. Makes for more okra, less breading. Oh, what's that? You're just here for the breading? Chop it into rings.
- Par-boil it for a few minutes. Or, as my mother says, "Cook all the snot out." Because "slime" wasn't a disgusting enough word, apparently.
- Roll it in a mixture that's half-cornmeal, half-flour, half-Tony Chachere's. Er, just "seasoned" with Tony Chechere's. Liberally* seasoned.
- *My addition to the recipe. I've basically made it my own and probably didn't need to credit it.
- Let it rest on some wax paper for a while so the breading gets nice and sticky.
- Get some oil hot.
- Dump it in, brown it up.
- Dip the result in ranch dressing, live happily ever after.
The end. Thank you and goodnight!
Oh, wait. That's right. Sometimes I kind of get bored of this perfectly perfect approach to okra and I just have to wonder...what else is out there? What options do I have, okra-wise?
Well, a little publication called the New York Times has something to say about it! (Roast. Is what they say.) Please keep in mind that this recipe is specifically labeled "FOR HEALTH." So proceed with caution.
But what if you only have a skillet and a stovetop and a dream? Never fear! Alton Brown is here, and he wants to you to mix that okra with a slew of tomatoes and some tasty Asian seasonings. Okra and tomatoes! Like gumbo without all that gross seafood!
Note: though the okra and tomato combination is quite delicous, it seems to me that the sauteé method only works with small, delicate okra. I kept mine on the stove for literally three times as long as the recipe suggests and was still left with pieces that were inedibly tough.
For my money, roasted okra wins the day. It's the fastest, easiest, least-ingredient-requiring option and has a fantastic flavor to boot. Embrace the slime, you guys. Okra it up.