Monday, August 29

fried green tomatoes with creamy cilantro bacon ranch dipping sauce

It's a disgrace, I know;  grew up in the South and I don't recall ever having fried green tomatoes. Yes, I was a "deprived" child wasn't I?  Well, time's a tickin', tomato season is waning, and I'm not getting any younger, so doggone it, today we are going to enjoy those crunchy, tangy treats.

Now I'm not a big fan of deep frying at home. Don't get me wrong - I like the occasional fries and potato chips - I'm just lazy and don't want to be bothered with cleaning up the mess!  So, if you are a fried green tomato purist, forgive me if I pan fry them in my trusty cast iron skillet.

I used panko bread crumbs as part of the breading for some extra crunch factor. And alongside, I served a cool, creamy bacon cilantro ranch dip, 'cause nothing goes better with tomatoes than bacon (ok, maybe caprese salad is a close second).  Oh my goodness, the combination of the tomatoes with that salty,creamy ranch is a match made in heaven.

For the fried green tomatoes:
3 medium size green tomatoes, sliced about 1/3" thick - they can be slightly yellow, but don't use red tomatoes!
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground corn meal (I used masa harina because it's the only finely ground type I could find )
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. celery salt
1/8 tsp. chachere's creole seasoning, or to taste
salt and pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
canola oil and 2 tablespoons bacon grease (optional, but definitely adds wonderful flavor) for pan frying
special equipment:  I recommend a cast iron skillet for crunchiest crust

For the bacon ranch sauce:
3 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked until crisp, chopped - save the bacon grease for frying the tomatoes
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat)
1/4 cup mayo
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (natural - not seasoned)
a few drops of worcestershire sauce
*I'm a big fan of cilantro.  Rumor has it that some of you folks are not, so in that case, just leave it out, and swap some Italian parsley if you like.

To prepare the dip:
Blend all ingredients together, taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary.  Cover and keep chilled until ready to serve with tomatoes.

To prepare the tomatoes:
preheat oven to 250

1) slice tomatoes, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2)  in a shallow dish (a pie plate works great), whisk dry ingredients together.

3)  whisk egg and buttermilk together until well blended and place in shallow pie plate or bowl.

4)  in a cast iron skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil and 1 tablespoon bacon grease over medium high heat.

5)  add a drop of water - when it sizzles you know the oil is ready.  Don't add the tomatoes before this or they will end up soggy, not crisp.

6)  Add tomato slices, one at a time to buttermilk mixture, turning to coat both sides.  Then dredge in flour mixture, coating both sides.  Add to pan.  Continue with the other slices - but make sure the pan isn't crowded.  I got about 5 slices in my skillet.  Decrease heat to medium and cook until bottom is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook second side until golden brown, an additional 3-4 minutes.  Remove tomatoes and place them on a wire rack.  Place a cookie sheet on the middle rack of your oven and put the rack with tomatoes on top of it.  Keep the tomatoes warm while you repeat the process for the second batch. Placing them on the wire rack helps to keep that nice crunchiness, you worked hard to achieve that and don't want to spoil it now!

7)  Serve immediately with the bacon cilantro ranch dressing on the side.  Enjoy!


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