If there's one thing that Houston farmers markets have in abundance right now, it's okra. The summery vegetable is either loved or hated -- there seems to be no middle ground -- due in large part to its mucilaginous properties. (The nice way of saying the okra pod is filled with a thick, gooey slime.)
While other plants like aloe vera, marshmallow and liquorice don't suffer from the "snotty" or "slimy" appellation that poor okra has been saddled with, there is one saving grace for those who refuse to eat the vegetable, a saving grace that any good Texan or Southerner is familiar with: frying.
Even those who claim to hate okra usually find fried pieces of okra somewhat palatable. However, battering and frying individual slices of okra can be time-consuming and the frozen, breaded okra you find in the grocery store usually tastes more of the bland breading than the okra.
A friend recently mentioned that he liked rhubarb but not okra, even though they were both slimy inside. I teased him back that it was because he could bake rhubarb in a pie, but not okra. And then, a week later, I randomly thought of that brief online conversation again and decided to look up "okra pie" on Google. I was originally thinking of okra baked with other veggies -- especially acidic vegetables like tomatoes, which would cut the "slime" -- inside a puff pastry or pie shell; a savory vegetable pie, if you will. But I found this recipe instead.
There were no photos and the text of the blog post was only a recipe in the loosest sense of the word, but that's never deterred me before. I was intrigued by what sounded like a giant okra fritter that could be sliced into wedges like a pie. It was like the sliced and fried okra I loved, only on a much larger scale -- and not from a freezer bag.
I bought a bag of okra on Saturday morning and headed home to try the recipe out for myself. I changed it slightly from Fatal Foodie's original to add a bit more flavor and oomph. The revamped recipe follows.
Okra Pie Serves: 4
- 1 lb. (about 4 c.) okra
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 shallot
- 3/4 c. cornmeal (I used polenta, which will also work)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 T. bacon grease (butter or Crisco will also work)
Slice the okra into 1/4 pieces and finely dice the half shallot. Combine all ingredients (except the bacon grease) in a mixing bowl, ensuring that the okra pieces are well coated with the beaten egg and cornmeal.
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In a large skillet -- preferably cast iron -- melt the bacon grease over medium heat. Make sure the grease covers the bottom of the skillet up to at least 1/8 of a inch. Pour the okra mixture into the skillet, ensuring that it's in one even layer.
Allow the okra to cook over medium heat until the edges are browned. Flip the okra "pie" and don't worry if the entire pie won't flip; just do the best you can. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels. Cut into pieces before serving, or -- for more fun -- allow people to tear off their own pieces of fritter. It's much quicker and easier than individual pieces of fried okra, and every bit as delicious.