3 FABULOUS SOUTHERN OKRA RECIPES: FRIED, BAKED, “SUCCOTASHED”
It feels so good to get this article written. I have been dreaming of writing it for the past month, but have been delayed..with good things, but nonetheless delayed. This year, my okra has produced perfect pods and not one has gone to waste. I have fried, baked, and “succotashed” to my heart’s desire.
Okra is a Southern staple on every Southerner’s table unless…they don’t like it! Many people, believe it or not, don’t like okra. They feel that it is slimy. They haven’t had it prepared correctly and I want any of you that don’t like okra to give any one of these 3 fabulous southern okra recipes a try.
Okra can be “slimy” because it contains a natural thickening agent, mucilage. Because of this quality, okra is used to prepare the best gumbo, soups, and stews that you will ever eat in your life. As if the thickening agent alone is not enough, the flavor that okra brings to the dish cannot be matched by any other ingredient. Filé is often used as a natural thickener, but okra’s flavor brings an entirely different dimension.
After taking a poll, I have learned that fried okra is still the preparation of choice for us in the South. I ran into a friendly man from the North last week and told him that I wrote books about sustainable living, gardening, Southern cuisine, and the like, and then told him about the article that I was writing, “3 Fabulous Southern Okra Recipes.” He exclaimed, “What is okra?”
Well…I have never been asked that before. I had to think about that answer for a few seconds. I couldn’t quite explain it. I finally told him, “There is really nothing that compares to okra. Although it can be purple or pale cream, it’s usually green, fatter than a green bean, a little fuzzy on the skin with edible seeds on the inside, tastes fresh, and is addicting, especially when fried.” I am not sure that was a very good description, but it was the best I could do while I was fumbling over all of my words. I think I interested him in this new ingredient and hopefully he found his way to a “Meat and Three” restaurant before he ventured back to the North.
My mom is intelligent, capable, and has been an excellent mother, but she didn’t like to cook. The one thing I remember her cooking while growing up was fried okra. I was blessed to have okra as a staple on my table all summer long. It was my favorite. As a five-year old, I would get in a lot of trouble for only eating the okra on my plate. I still have the same reasoning as I did when I was five…eat what you like and leave the rest behind. Thankfully my tastes have grown beyond just candy and okra!
My Southern Fried Okra recipe is based on my mom’s fantastic simple traditional recipe. She doesn’t add the jalapeño peppers to her recipe, but I like a little touch of heat and this dish is much prettier with a little color.
Southern Fried Okra
Cut okra into 1/4 inch pieces.
Put the cornmeal, salt, pepper, and jalapeños into a gallon zip top bag. Place okra into bag and shake until okra is well covered in the cornmeal mixture. Remove okra to a colander and remove excess cornmeal.
Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet. Place the oil over medium heat until oil is shimmering (about 370 degrees). Place okra into skillet and allow the okra to brown about 5 to 7 minutes, turn the okra over for another 4 to 5 minutes until okra is golden brown. Remove okra to a cooling rack covered with paper towels using a slotted spoon. Adjust seasoning and serve.
Although the Southern Fried Okra Recipe isn’t too bad for you, I wanted to try a healthier alternative, a baked “fried” okra recipe. These are more like okra bites. They are full of flavor and are great for snacking.
I tried to use Greek Yogurt in place of the buttermilk, but the yogurt was too thick. The buttermilk works perfectly. You should know that the okra will be a little clumpy and wet before baking, but don’t worry about that. It will all work out in the end. Believe me, when you pull these out of the oven, they will be gone in minutes.
If you do have left overs, store them in the refrigerator in a zip top bag. When you are ready to eat them, pull them out of the refrigerator and put them on a baking sheet that is topped with parchment paper. Put them in a 200 degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes and there you have it. Scrumptious!
Southern Crunchy Baked “Fried” Okra
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pour buttermilk into a medium-sized bowl along with the okra. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, add flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper. Remove the okra from the buttermilk mixture with a slotted spoon and place okra in batches into the bowl with cornmeal. Discard the buttermilk. Remove each batch of coated okra to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure the okra pieces are not touching. Pour butter over the okra to enhance browning and drizzle with olive oil. You can use cooking spray liberally instead of butter and oil. Bake in oven for 25 to 35 minutes turning once during cooking. It may take longer depending on your oven. Serve with your favorite Chipotle mayonnaise or homemade ketchup.
Now for the Succotash! Don’t you just love that word..remember “Suffering Succotash?” Well, this succotash is not suffering. That is for sure.
My Granny, the reason I love to cook, made the best okra soup in the world. I have taken her method of cooking and added a few ingredients that I believe knock this recipe out of the park. Her food was fresh, sustainable, and simple. She was way ahead of her time in the culinary world…or maybe we are repeating the best things in history…slow foods.
Southern Okra Succotash
Place stew meat into the pressure cooker and pour beef stock,red wine, and about 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper over the meat. Place the lid on the pressure cooker with the 10 pound weight and bring to a boil. When the weight begins to rock, turn down the heat to medium and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, brown stew meat in batches in a Dutch oven. Once it is browned, add all of the meat to the Dutch oven and pour stock and wine over the meat. Allow to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, place olive oil and butter into a heavy bottomed skillet. Put onions, celery, and bell pepper into pot and sauté over medium heat until the vegetables are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add corn, okra, and tomatoes to the mixture and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Carefully remove stew meat with a slotted spoon and place into the pot with the vegetables. Allow to cook for 5 more minutes. Add more stock if liquid is needed. Only add stock if the succotash is sticking to the bottom of the skillet. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
I hope you try at least one of these recipes. My “okra love” is written all over this article and I would cherish the thought of it being contagious. God made it, lets eat it!