We all know the movie that made them famous, but there’s more to fried green tomatoes than being on the menu at The Whistle Stop Café. It’s pretty clear that us Southerners can fry just about anything, and we always seem to know how to cook up the “unwanted bits.” So why not take a lowly, unripe tomato and make it useful?
What was once considered a humble meal made with pantry ingredients and garden vegetables, the fried green tomato has snowballed into a culinary trend in recent years (starting when the movie came out back in 1991). You can find them on just about every menu down South, from the casual brunch café to restaurants specializing in more high-end cuisine. I recently enjoyed them at a restaurant where they were tempura fried and drizzled with a citrus beurre blanc and swirled with a balsamic reduction. Pretty fancy if you ask me. While they were delicious, I still prefer the classic: just flour and cornmeal, and perhaps a little bacon grease.
For good measure, I decided to enjoy my latest batch of fried green tomatoes in sandwich form. Who doesn’t love a top-quality BLT? And when you use freshly baked bread, crisp summer lettuce, smoky bacon and homemade black peppercorn mayonnaise? Well, I think you just may have found yourself a bit of Southern paradise.
Fried Green Tomato BLT Recipe With Black Peppercorn Mayonnaise
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yields: 4 – 6 sandwiches
For the BLT:
8 slices cooked thick-cut bacon, grease reserved
Sliced sandwich bread, toasted if desired
Fried Green Tomatoes (recipe below)
Black Peppercorn Mayonnaise (recipe below)
For the tomatoes:
Peanut oil, for frying
2 pounds unripe, green tomatoes (about 3 medium sized)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Hot sauce, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the black peppercorn mayonnaise:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup canola oil
For the tomatoes: In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1/2-inch of peanut oil to 350 – 375 degrees F over medium-high heat. It is best to use a fry thermometer to maintain and monitor the correct temperature. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved bacon grease to the oil if you’d like.
Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Add a few dashes of hot sauce to the egg mixture, if desired. In another shallow bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch and Old Bay seasoning. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
One at a time, dip a tomato slice into the egg mixture, and then dredge the slice in the cornmeal mixture. Make sure to generously coat all sides. Repeat with a few more slices. Using long tongs, add a couple of dredged tomatoes to the fry pan (depending on the size of the pan) and allow to cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Carefully flip one time if necessary. Remove the tomatoes to a sheet pan lined with a large brown paper bag, which will absorb grease without making the tomatoes soggy. Sprinkle the hot tomatoes with kosher salt. Continue frying the additional slices; assemble sandwiches immediately.
For the mayonnaise (which can be made up to two days in advance): In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar and a pinch of salt. Using a hand-held mixer on medium speed, slowly add the canola oil drop by drop until the mixture begins to thicken and lighten (this can take a couple of minutes). After adding about 1/4 cup of the oil, the mixture should be stable and emulsified. You can then add the oil in a slow, steady stream until all of the oil is incorporated. Taste for seasoning. Add salt if necessary and quite a few generous turns of the pepper mill set on the coarsest setting.
For the sandwiches: Slather one slice of bread with the black peppercorn mayonnaise. On the other slice, arrange a layer of lettuce, followed by a couple of fried green tomatoes (or one, if the tomato is very large), and by pieces of bacon (broken in half if necessary). Top the sandwich with the other slice of bread and enjoy immediately.
More Southern Eats From Nealey
Nealey moved from Alabama to the West Coast to follow her dreams, only to realize once there how much she missed good ol’ country cooking. So she took to the kitchen and began re-creating the dishes of her past, but this time without any help from a can. What started out as a hobby turned into an obsession, so she quit her day job to pursue cooking, and eating, fulltime. Dixie Caviar is where you can follow her pursuits of all things Southern.