Fried green tomatoes have always been the ultimate comfort food for many Americans, but in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis, everyone in the country can benefit from this bear-hugging dish. “As life gets more complicated, comfort food like this reminds us of secure moments in our life,” says Gerald Ford, CMC, founder of Legit Culinary Concepts, a culinary consultancy. “Fried green tomatoes are very seasonal at this time, especially if you have a garden, but I’ve never had trouble sourcing them from a purveyor.” Legend has it that the idea for the dish came about many years ago when gardeners and farmers, not wanting to waste food, had to come up with ways to make the tart, underripe tomatoes more palatable when they fell from the vine to the ground too early. Traditional preparation is to dredge thick slices of the tomatoes in well-seasoned flour, followed by a simple egg wash and then into a mix of seasoned breadcrumbs and/or cornmeal before frying them in oil in a hot skillet until browned. In the past, Ford’s Southern clientele have tended to prefer a little sweetness, so he’s served the dish with tomato jam made from sweeter red tomatoes. Other traditional accompaniments might include hot sauce or remoulade.
Fried green tomatoes, other than providing comfort, also offer a blank slate for chefs to flex their creative muscles. “These days, when going to the grocery store feels like a scene out of ‘Chopped,’ I like to work with green tomatoes because they are simple and homey, but so much fun to dress up,” says Ford. “Although I like to keep things simple, green tomatoes can take a little dressing and you can ‘chef’ it a bit.” For a modern spin on fried green tomatoes, Ford takes inspiration from a classic tomato Provençal dish with cheese and breadcrumbs. He first splits the tomatoes in half, scooping out the flesh, but don’t throw it out! Marinate it in vinegar and olive oil for later use in a dressing, or make a jam out of it. After quickly broiling the tomato cores to coax out any sweetness and make the skins easier to peel off, Ford stuffs each with fresh burrata cheese and tops them with an herb and butter breadcrumb mixture before setting them under the broiler until bubbly and browned. Accouterments may include an easy aioli made with spicy mustard, lemon juice and garlic; a spicy tomato-bell pepper-jalapeno chutney; bacon and tomato jam, and/or pickled grape tomatoes. A topping of deep-fried, leftover tomato skins adds extra crunch.
See the classical and modern recipes, as well as more photos, at wearechefs.com.