Here's Why Fried Green Tomatoes Are Our New Summer Side Obsession

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Aside from masquerading as the title of a 1987 novel that was shortly thereafter made into popular Oscar-nominated 90s film, what exactly is the deal with fried green tomatoes? Usually when we see the color green as it relates to fruit (because yes, tomatoes are fruits not veggies), it signifies that it's unripe. But with green tomatoes, that actually isn't always the case. According to Lenoir County Center's site on agriculture and food, there can be both unripe red tomatoes that are green as well as ripe green tomatoes; "Tomatoes that are green when ripe (real green tomatoes) often have vertical stripes or other variations in the coloring, will feel soft when pressed, and will taste much like a red tomato, possibly slightly sweet or spicy depending on the variety. Unripe (red) tomatoes will be pale green all over, feel nearly solid and will have a more acidic or tart flavor."
Make sense? Now, let's get down fried part. With the recent rise in popularity around new-wave Southern restaurants, this verdant fried side dish has been stealing the show on menus everywhere. And in order to find out why, we jumped on the phone with the chef at one of the most popular spots to chow down on the side in NYC. Scroll on for the 411 on fried green tomatoes, as explained by Jacob's Pickles' chef (and fried green tomato extraordinaire), Glenroy Brown. Plus, he shares an easy way to whip them up at home.
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What exactly is a fried green tomato?
It’s a tomato that’s been double-breaded with egg wash, flour, and cornmeal and fried. [The tomato is] sliced around 1/4-inch-thick, seasoned with salt and pepper, breaded, and then deep-fried for about a minute and a half to two minutes.
How do you serve them at Jacob's Pickles?
We serve ours with a tomato brine. Instead of throwing out the leftover liquid from pickled tomatoes, we serve it as a light and mild mayo-based dipping sauce with paprika, a little bit of pepper, and mustard.
When are they best served?
All throughout the day — I don’t think the time of the day matters. We serve them both on our brunch and dinner menus.
Are you a fan of them and why?
I’m a huge fan. I’ve been working in Southern restaurants for a while now, and they’ve always been a staple for each menu that I’ve worked with. I like the crunchiness of the texture, the grittiness, and [that] little bit of tartness from the tomato itself, but served with a sweet-mild sauce to compliment it.
Why green tomatoes instead of red tomatoes?
Red tomatoes have a little bit more liquid inside of them, a little bit more water content, and the green tomato is not as watery. So when you fry it, it doesn’t get mushy inside — It’s a little bit more firm and not as soft.
What's the easiest way to whip up a batch of them at home?
Use a pot with a candy thermometer and canola oil halfway filled no more than half-way up to the top (temperature should be 325 degrees). Slice tomatoes to around 1/4-in-thick and then follow the standard double-breading procedure: always go from dry, to wet, to dry. Start with flour, whatever liquid you choose (egg wash, milk, etc.), and the last step would be your crunchy outer layer (cornmeal or bread crumbs). Then finish them off by frying the breaded slices in the pot of oil for a minute and a half to two minutes.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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