Fat’s Chicken and Waffles chef Patrick Dours shares the secret to the perfect fried green tomato.

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OUR PACIFIC NORTHWEST summers are magnificent, but they just aren’t long enough to do all we want to do, and they certainly aren’t long enough to ripen all the tomatoes that intrepid Northwest gardeners try to grow. So when summer’s really over, what to do with all those gorgeous green globes of unrealized potential? Fried green tomatoes, of course!

A well-made fried green tomato is irresistible: hot and juicy with a bright, tart flavor, a shatteringly crisp coating and just a touch of spice.

Although they are found everywhere in the American South, from roadside cafes to fine dining establishments, South Carolinian food writer and culinary historian Robert F. Moss says fried green tomatoes’ origins are elsewhere. He uncovered the earliest printed recipes in Midwestern cookbooks and Jewish cookbooks from the Northeast. Come to think of it, it makes more sense they’d come from places with distinct seasons, where farmers and gardeners are more likely to find themselves with withering vines laden with unripe tomatoes at the end of summer.

But no one can argue that, over the past few decades, Southerners have perfected the recipe. And Patrick Dours, chef at Fat’s Chicken and Waffles in the Central District, knows all about Southern food. His family has such deep roots in New Orleans that although he grew up in Kirkland, Dours moved to New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina to help with the cleanup. He ended up staying five years.

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In Louisiana, they can grow tomatoes almost year-round. We aren’t quite that lucky, but right now they are pretty easy to find. Dours says to be sure to pick tomatoes that are still completely green; if they’ve started to ripen, they’ll fall apart. At Fat’s, he serves them on a sandwich with house-made pimento cheese, pickles and salad greens; in a remarkable eggs Benedict; and in a salad with shrimp rémoulade and fresh greens. They’re also delicious with just a smear of pimento cheese.

 

Fried Green Tomatoes

Makes about 4 servings

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 pound green (unripe) tomatoes

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning (with salt)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

½ cup white rice flour

½ cup corn flour

Smoked Maldon sea salt, for serving

 

1. Heat a couple of inches of the oil in a deep, wide pot to 350 degrees F.

2. Use a serrated knife to cut the tomatoes into half-inch slices. If you prefer your fried green tomatoes less juicy, you can set the slices on a cooling rack, season them with kosher salt and leave them to drain for up to 30 minutes.

3. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, seasoning, cornstarch and baking powder.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs.

5. In a separate bowl or wide plate, blend the rice flour and corn flour.

6. Dip each slice of tomato into the seasoned flour first, turning it over and over to get a really good coating. Then dip the slice into the buttermilk and eggs, turning to completely coat it. Last, dip the slice into the corn flour/rice flour mixture. Turn it over a few times to get a good packed coating. Repeat with a few more slices.

7. When you have enough coated slices to cook a batch (you want to be able to leave an inch of space between the slices as they fry), carefully lower the slices into the hot oil. Cook until the bottoms are golden and crisp, then carefully turn them over and cook on the other side. Total cooking time will come to about 90 seconds.

8. Drain the hot tomatoes on paper toweling or a cooling rack for a minute or two. Sprinkle with smoked salt.