Polenta-crusted fried green tomatoes with curry garlic mayonnaise
Not every tomato ripens. The September sun continues to supply intense summer heat, ripening the majority of tomatoes still on the vine, but many will remain green. I consider fried green tomatoes to be an indulgence. (We don't fry food at home very often: okra once a year and green tomatoes twice. Maybe.) Instead, I prefer to soak thick slices of green tomato in buttermilk, and coat them with a blend of medium-grind cornmeal, rice flour and coarse polenta.
It was pouring rain when I tested this recipe, causing my thoughts about the sauce I'd serve with the tomatoes to turn to warm flavors and spices like curry and garlic. I came up with this tasty, cold dipping sauce which is the perfect complement to the warm tomatoes with a crunchy polenta crust. Make the sauce a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator, or put it together while your tomatoes are soaking in buttermilk.
You'll want lots of paper towels to absorb the hot oil from the tomatoes, immediately after you remove them from the skillet
5 medium-size green tomatoes
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups coarse polenta
2 cups medium-grind cornmeal
1 cup rice flour
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon coarsely ground fennel seeds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 cups vegetable, safflower or canola oil for frying (1 cup per batch)
Curry-Garlic Mayonaise for serving (recipe follows)
Slice the tomatoes in 1/3-inch thick slices and submerge them in the buttermilk making certain they are coated evenly and completely. Soak the tomatoes for at least 1 hour, to give the enzymes in the buttermilk time to soften the firm green tomatoes.
While the tomatoes are soaking, make the breading mixture. Combine the polenta, cornmeal, rice flour, paprika, cayenne, fennel and salt in a shallow pan and mix well. This is also a good time to make the Curry Garlic Mayonnaise if you haven't already.
When you're ready to fry the tomatoes, add 1 cup of the oil to a heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably cast iron. Adjust the heat to medium high and heat the oil to 325 degrees F. You can test the temperature of the oil by sprinkling a little bit of the breading mixture into it. If the meal crackles or pops, the oil is ready.
To coat the tomatoes, remove them from the buttermilk one at a time, shaking off any excess moisture. Place the tomato in the breading mixture, turning it over until both sides are thickly and evenly coated. Once you get a rhythm going, coat several slices at a time, just enough to fit in a single layer in the pan.
Gently lower the breaded tomatoes in the hot oil and fry on one side until golden brown. Use tongs or a perforated spatula to turn the tomatoes over, one at a time, and fry them on the other side, until golden brown and crispy. Remove the slices onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Change the oil if it is noticeably cloudy with burnt polenta and cornmeal debris. Repeat the process, keeping the cooked tomatoes warm in a low oven if needed, until you've fried all of the tomatoes.
CURRY GARLIC MAYONNAISE
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Juice of one-half lemon
1 cup olive or grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 large garlic clove, finely grated on microplane
Salt to taste
If a fellow kitchen helper is handy, ask her to assist either by holding the bowl steady while you whisk, or by slowly adding the oil while another hand whisks briskly. The transformation of ingredients is fascinating to watch if you have the easy job!
Combine the yolk, mustard and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together 15 seconds or so. Slowly (and this is both the key and the trick!) begin to drizzle in the oil, keeping the stream slow and steady until an emulsification is established. You'll know by watching the side of the bowl, where you'll see “ribbons” collecting consistently on the edge. If the ribbon is fragmented or broken, or looks more like oil than a smooth, uniform mixture, you need to add the oil more slowly. Once the mayonnaise appears to have stabilized, you can begin to add the oil more quickly until the entire amount has been incorporated. can be poured at a faster rate until the 8 ounces of oil is used. Add the vinegar, curry powder, garlic and salt to taste. Adjust the seasoning for more lemon juice for acidity if desired. Store the mayonnaise in the refrigerator until ready to serve.