Crispy, brown and salty – fried okra was the only way I would eat okra when I was a kid. My parents enjoyed whole, boiled okra sometimes, but I never could get past the gelatinous juices the okra exuded when it was boiled. When you toss raw, sliced okra with a little flour and cornmeal, those same gelatinous juices make a batter that browns up in the smallest bit of oil to make the crispy deliciousness that is fried okra.
I have never really worked from a recipe to make fried okra. I usually just toss the slices with flour and cornmeal and then add water until the mix looks right. I had to pull out the measuring cups and spoons to figure out how much of everything to use this time.
This is one recipe where more isn’t better. It doesn’t take much oil for the okra to crisp – if you add too much you end up with greasy okra. And be patient with the heat. Almost every summer I burn a batch of okra because I impatiently turn up the heat to hurry things along and then smell the mistake. Do as I say, not as I do, young grasshoppers.
From The Cook’s Life
¾-1 pound okra
¼ teaspoon salt, plus additional for serving
¼ cup cornmeal, approximately
¼ cup all-purpose flour, approximately
1-2 tablespoons water, approximately
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, approximately
Cut tops off okra, and tips if they are brown or limp. Cut okra into ¼-½ rounds. Drop pieces into a large bowl as you cut them. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ cup cornmeal and ¼ cup flour. Mix well.
Sometimes the natural moisture from the okra will be enough to turn the cornmeal and flour into a batter-like coating. If the mixture looks dry, add water, a few teaspoons at a time. The batter should stick to the okra pieces, mostly covering them. If you get too much water and the okra is sitting in runny batter, add about a tablespoon each of flour and cornmeal to thicken it.
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until oil is shimmering, but not smoking. Pour okra into hot pan, spreading it out into one even layer.
Cook, undisturbed, for 5-7 minutes, or until bottom is starting to brown. Carefully turn sections of the okra over, trying not to leave any of the coating on the pan. Add a teaspoon of oil, if the pan seems dry. Don’t add too much, or the okra will be greasy.
After another 5 minutes, the second side of the okra should be mostly browned. Gently stir the okra to break up some of the clumps. Some of the coating will fall off, which is fine. This makes little crispy bits that everyone will be fighting over when you serve it. Cook until most sides of the okra pieces are browned and crispy. Some of the larger pieces will never get crispy, but they will still be good.
Serve hot, with additional salt to taste.
Fried okra is best right after it is cooked. Leftovers can be reheated in a dry skillet and they will be almost as good as they were the first time. I wouldn’t recommend heating leftovers in the microwave.