There’s nothing like a juicy, ripe red tomato, but unlike most fruits and vegetables, the tomato’s unripe version, when prepared correctly, is also a wonderful treat.
While every tomato grower knows this is true, most don’t even think about picking an unripe tomato until we get to the end of the season and there’s simply not enough time and warm weather left for those hard, green orbs to ripen.
So, what do you do with all those green tomatoes? The options are endless. They make a lovely jam. (I like to add extras like candied ginger or preserved lemons to mine.) You can pickle them, stew them or use them in relishes or salsas, but my favorite way to use this late September harvest is to cut them into slices and fry them.
A good fried-green tomato is golden and crunchy on the outside and firm and juicy on the inside. They aren’t hard to make, especially if you follow a few simple guidelines.
Slice the tomatoes thinly: A thickly sliced fried-green tomato tends to get mushy in the cooking process and can turn the coating into a soggy mess. Just under a ¼-inch thickness seems to be the sweet spot, resulting in the right ratio of green tomato to golden, crispy crust.
Salt before breading: To release the tomato’s excess liquid, lay the tomato slices out on paper towels, lightly salt them and let them sit for a bit. This helps to ensure a nice, crispy coating.
Nix the cornmeal: This may be controversial, as cornmeal is the more traditional coating, but I find that it can sometimes give an unpleasant grittiness. Instead, I opt for panko breadcrumbs, which are sturdy enough to give the tomatoes a nice crunch without the grit.
Frying the tomatoes only takes a few minutes, and they really need nothing else to make them delicious, only a sprinkling of salt and they are ready to enjoy, in all their crunchy deliciousness. Sometimes, though, I like to elevate them even more by inserting them into my favorite summer sandwich, the BLT.
Because the addition of the fried green tomatoes makes the BLT heartier than the traditional version of the sandwich, I like to substitute a hamburger bun, one that has some heft to it. A lightweight bun will not do.
Of course, such a showstopping sandwich deserves an extra-special condiment, and for this one, there’s pickled pepper mayo. It’s easy to do, just chop up those pickled jalapeños you use to top off your nachos and mix it with mayo for a spicy blend.
All that’s left to do now is pile on those fried tomato slices, along with a couple of slices of crispy bacon and a generous amount of peppery arugula for a memorable end to another glorious tomato season.
Fried Green Tomato BLT Sandwiches With Pickled Pepper Mayo
Makes 4 sandwiches.
Note: Crispy on the outside, tart and juicy on the inside, fried-green tomatoes give an unusual twist to a classic BLT. The pickled jalapeños make for a spicy mayo. Panko breadcrumbs are larger and lighter than the traditional crumb, which could be substituted. From Meredith Deeds.
• 2 large green tomatoes, cored and cut into 12 slices, each just under 1/4-in. thick
• 1 1/4 tsp. salt, divided
• 1/3 c. mayonnaise
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped pickled jalapeños, plus 2 tsp. pepper juice from jar
• 1 c. flour
• 1 c. panko breadcrumbs (see Note)
• 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
• 2 eggs
• Vegetable oil for frying
• 4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
• 8 slices cooked bacon
• 1 c. baby arugula
Place tomato slices on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover tomatoes with another layer of paper towels and let sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, jalapeños and pepper juice; set aside.
Whisk flour, breadcrumbs, Cajun seasoning and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt together in shallow bowl. Lightly beat eggs in another shallow bowl.
Dredge a tomato slice into the flour/breadcrumb mixture. Dip into the eggs to coat, then dredge back into the flour/breadcrumb mixture to completely coat. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining tomato slices.
Place a wire rack on baking sheet. Heat 1/2-inch oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Fry half of tomatoes until golden and crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer fried tomatoes to wire rack. Repeat with remaining tomatoes.
Spread the mayo mixture on both sides of toasted bun. Arrange 3 slices of tomatoes on the bottom of each bun. Top with two slices of bacon, arugula and top half of bun and serve.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.