Fried green tomatoes are, as far as I know, the only fried vegetable to be immortalized in the title of a major American motion picture. But they aren’t the most intuitive fried vegetable to immortalize. Tomatoes are juicy. They have a lot of loosely contained seeds. They fall apart easily.
All of these traits make them very difficult to fry compared to, say, eggplant or broccoli.
But let’s talk for a moment about what “green” means. In the phrase “fried green tomatoes,” green refers to unripe tomatoes – tomatoes plucked from the vine before they’ve matured to the point of turning soft and red. There is a very good reason to use these tomatoes, rather than fully ripe tomatoes, for frying: Unripe tomatoes are firmer and drier than ripe ones, so they have less of a tendency to disintegrate when you put them in hot oil. However, confusingly, some varieties of heirloom tomato (e.g., green zebras) remain green even when they are ripe.
These are not the kind of green tomato you should fry.
Flour, egg and breadcrumbs turn into a coating that sticks steadfastly to tomatoes and becomes perfectly crisp and light when fried. It’s hard to improve upon a tomato slice fried this way, but if you insist, you may melt a slice of mozzarella or muenster cheese on top of each tomato round.
Fried Green (or Red) Tomatoes
Yield: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
2 large unripe tomatoes (about 1 ½ pounds), cut crosswise into ½-inch slices
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 cup panko (or other fine breadcrumbs)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup (½ stick) butter or bacon fat
Put tomato slices in large colander and toss with large pinch of salt. Put colander in the sink and let tomatoes sit for 20 minutes. Gently pat dry with a paper towel.
Put flour, egg and panko in three separate shallow bowls; season each with salt and pepper. Beat the egg.
Put olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dip each tomato slice first in the flour, then egg, and finally panko, letting any excess coating drip off. Transfer half of tomato slices to skillet. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and cook until lightly browned on the other side, another 3 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining tomato slices, flour, egg and panko. Serve hot.