Despite my Southern upbringing, I had never cooked with okra before tonight. Most of my experiences with okra are concentrated in my early childhood. It stands out because my younger sister – the pickiest eater of us all – loved okra. I remember her saying it was her favorite vegetable. It baffled (and impressed) me that she liked it so much when there were so many other foods she wouldn’t eat. Not to be out done by my little sister, I ate okra with very little protest even though it certainly wasn’t one of my favorite foods. I’ve eaten okra plenty of times since then, but I had never sought it out and cooked it myself until this week.
I supposed I didn’t seek it out this time either. When we came across it at the farmers market recently, my mid-westerner husband told me how much he loves okra. I can’t think of a vegetable that Brian doesn’t like, but he rarely gets as excited as I do about anything at the market, so I was happy to oblige.
I went back and forth over what to do with the okra for most of the evening and perused a number of online recipes before finally deciding on fritters. This recipe is adapted from Scott Peacock’s “Okra Fritters,” as featured on the Today Show a few years ago.
2 fresh ears of corn (or 1 cup frozen, in a pinch)
3 cups thinly sliced okra
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup finely ground corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
freshly ground black pepper
oil for frying
Peel husks and silks from the corn and discard. Remove the kernels from the ears by standing the ear vertically on a large cutting board and carefully running a sharp knife down the length of the ear until all kernels have been removed. Set kernels aside. Extract remaining corn from ears by running a spoon down each ear until all is removed. This should yield about 3-4 tablespoons between the two ears. Set corn “pulp” aside.
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add corn kernels and cook for 2 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of corn cooking water; then drain blanched kernels in a fine mesh strainer.
In a large bowl whisk together cornmeal, flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and baking powder.
Whisk together egg, 2/3 cup cooking water, and corn pulp. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients just until combined. It should be the consistency of a thick cake batter. Add a little more cooking water if batter seems too dry.
Heat 1/4-inch of oil in a cast iron skillet(or other heavy pan) over medium-high heat. Adjust heat to maintain a temperature between 340°and 350°F. (Use a candy thermometer to monitor temperature.)
Drop heaping tablespoons of batter one at a time into hot oil.* (I used a 1-oz./#30 cookie scoop and flattened the fritters slightly with the back of the scoop.)
When the fritters are well browned on the underside (about 3-4 minutes), carefully turn them over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Remove cooked fritters to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm in oven until ready to serve.
*I’m not a very experienced at stovetop deep- (or not-so-deep-)frying. (We always had a dedicated appliance for that.) Maybe I was doing something wrong, but I had a little trouble with oil splattering up at me without warning. (I have hot oil to thank for a new – thankfully tiny – burn on my arm.) I highly recommend using a splatter screen if you have it.