Part XXXIX: On Bended Artery
I get this question a lot, especially when I cook for people not overly familiar with areas south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“Where did all this tasty stuff come from? Whose idea was it to fry green tomatoes or make chicken and waffles?”
And the answer’s simple. We stole it.
I don’t really want to send you fine people on a guilt trip just because you wanted to make yourself something tasty. That’s not what I’m all about. But it’s something you need to consider because it’s an ingredient, a very important ingredient, in a lot of the food in the South. So let’s consider. (By the way, I’m not a historian in any way, shape, or form, so apologies if some of the facts are…well, wrong)
Basically, Americans enslaved a group of people, brought them over to America, and did a series of terrible things to them. Because of this, and because it’s really, really hot working in the fields all day in the late 1800s, they needed food that not only gave them the energy to not collapse and die, but could also be made from the crappy ingredients the aforementioned enslavers gave them.
So they fried the crap out of everything and made cornbread, and guess what? Not only was it delicious, but it tasted damn good too. Turns out people turn out the most innovation when they have to use it, not when they get to use it (see also: any French food invented during the revolution).
White people, in turn, responded by eating their slaves’ delicious food and stealing the recipes, along with their music. That’s the reason why a century and a half later, we’re subjected to “Guy Fieri’s Kickin’ Lickin’ Chicken Wings” while having to listen to a guy who grew up in his mom’s basement farting out blue notes on his guitar about his life struggles. It’s not anywhere close to a fair and even payback, but it’s certainly deserved.
In spite of all this, we still hang onto those stolen goods, because, well…they’re tasty. They’re really really tasty. Especially fried green tomatoes, and super especially if you make those into Fried Green Tomato BLTs with Pork Belly. Which is exactly what I did.
Here’s what you need:
– 2-3 oz pork belly (I got mine pre-cured, if you get yours fresh…cure it. There’s Internet people who’ll tell you how to do that.)
– 1 head romaine lettuce
– A loaf of sourdough bread
– 4 green tomatoes
– 3/4 cup AP flour
– 4 eggs
– 2 tablespoons milk
– 1 1/2 cups panko
– 1 pinch cayenne pepper
– 1 pinch paprika
– 1/4 cup mayo
– 3 cloves of garlic
– Enough canola oil to fill 1/2 an inch up the side of your biggest pan
Here’s how you do it:
Slice up the green tomatoes into roughly 1/4 inch slices. They don’t have to be perfect, just make sure they aren’t offensively big when you try to cram them into your mouth.
Grab yourself three shallow bowls. These are gonna be what you dredge the tomatoes in, which is a French word for “cover in various kinds of crap”.
Put the flour in the first bowl, the eggs and milk in the second, and the panko and spices (cayenne and paprika) in the third.
Next, whisk up the eggs and milk until they’re combined, and just vaguely stir around the panko and spices with your hand or something. Seriously, that bowl doesn’t have to be that mixed up at all.
Start heating your oil in the pan. You want it to get up to 350 degrees F, so if you don’t have a candy thermometer…that’s bad. Either go get one, or heat up the oil on medium and pray. But if I were you I’d get one, you cheapskate.
Dredge the tomatoes starting first with the flour, then the egg mixture, and finish with breadcrumbs. Again, these don’t have to be perfect, just make sure most of the tomato slices are covered. It’s fried green tomatoes; pretty much any amount of fried stuff on those is gonna be tasty.
Once the tomatoes are prepared, start frying them four or five at a time, depending on how big a pan you have. Let them sizzle for about three minutes, flip, and keep them in there another three. It might not be exactly three minutes, depending on your stove and your pan and the relative alignment of the solar system that day, so just check the undersides of them every once in a while. Are they brown? Flip them. Are they not-brown? Don’t flip them. Simple, no?
Oh, and make sure to put them on a plate with a few paper towels underneath when they’re done, that way you won’t find yourself wrist-deep in a pile of fried tomato grease.
While you’re frying the tomatoes, or just afterwards if you’re a lazy bastard and didn’t bother to read the whole recipe before you started cooking, cut up your pork belly into thin strips. You want them to be a little thicker than bacon, that way you’ll get a nice crispy outside with all that glorious fat melting in the middle. And make sure you cut off the skin. Belly skin’s gross.
Throw the strips of pork belly onto a pan at medium high heat, and keep cooking until they’re crispy. If you’ve made bacon before, you know what consistency you’re looking for. If you haven’t…I think you should leave now. You don’t belong here.
After the pork belly and tomatoes are done, slice up your bread and start toasting it. Mix up your garlic mayo as well, by mincing or pressing your garlic cloves into the mayo and stirring. And get your lettuce ready too. We need something marginally healthy in here, damnit.
All that’s left is to assemble, put it on a plate, and put it in your body.
Put some beats in your body too, courtesy of Reflection Eternal, Jay Electronica, J. Cole and Mos Def. It’s Just Begun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOKROODcPZI
Like I said.
The point of all this isn’t to guilt you or make you feel sad or whatever. Nobody should feel sad eating a damn sandwich, especially one filled with pork belly. The point is that there’s more ingredients in a BLT than the B and the T. There’s history to it too, and that’s a pretty damned important part of the recipe. Don’t forget about that stuff, people.
I’ll see you next time.