Saturday, July 19, 2008

Okra Pie

I’m so very sorry that I missed the open mic night. I couldn’t be home that night. My dearest wish is that things will calm down one of these days and I can have a life.

In the meantime, writing last week about how my siblings help me with recipes for my books has gotten me thinking about okra pie.

Okra 'pie' is an old family recipe that I included in the my last book, The Drop Edge of Yonder. It’s not really a pie - it’s okra sliced up with egg and cornmeal and fried into a kind of large round fritter. It can be sliced into wedges and eaten by hand, so it’s not only quite delicious, it’s fun to eat, as well.

My mother raised okra in her backyard garden, and always had tons of it every summer. Usually we ate it fried, sometimes boiled with tomatoes or in a stew, but she made it into a ‘pie’ for us quite often, and we loved it. I made it myself quite a bit when I was younger and actually cooked at home with some regularity, but it’s been so long that I had forgotten the particulars and had to ask my sister, the famous Carol, to help me reconstruct the recipe. Most of the time I can make it just right - perfectly brown and toasty and all in one piece. However, it takes a practiced eye to know just how long to cook it on one side before attempting the flip-over, and occasionally I end up with a pan full of loose fried okra with egg in it. It doesn’t really matter. It’s still yummy.

p.s. To all you poor non-Southerners who have only eaten your okra boiled, this is not slimy in the least.

1 lb. sliced okra (about 4 cups) 2 beaten eggs
¾ cup yellow cornmeal ¼ tsp. salt, or to taste
Fat for frying

Melt the fat in a heavy skillet. The fat should cover the bottom of the pan to about 1/8 inch deep. When very hot, add the coated okra and spread out so that it covers the bottom of the skillet in a single layer. Do not stir. Let the okra cook until the top looks dry and the edges are beginning to brown, then turn the batch over with a large turner. After years of practice, my mom could turn the entire thing over in one piece. If the pie breaks into two or three pieces the first hundred or so times you try it, don’t worry about it. Fry the other side until brown, adding more fat if needed. Turn the "pie" out onto a serving plate, cut into wedges, and serve.


Lisa Hall said...

This recipe sounds fun! I made a fried okra salad a few weeks ago. I got the recipe from Paula Deen's magazine. The salad was so good!
I also have a stir fried okra recipe that has Indian spices in it. Also very good. You guys who haven't tried fried okra, give it a chance. It's addictive like popcorn.

Gayle said...

You guys who haven't tried fried okra, give it a chance. It's addictive like popcorn.

Do you promise, Lisa?

Marian Allen said...

Hate slimy Okra, LOVE fried okra! I've never had the nerve to cook it, myself, because I'm afraid I won't do it right and it'll come out yucky. Cracker Barrel has the best fried okra I've ever put in my mouth.

zhadi said...

Heh. You forestalled my 'but it's SLIMEY!' objection before I could make it!

Donis Casey said...

Indian spiced okra is to die for! Do you like gumbo soup? I grew up with okra, as do most people from my part of the world, and can eat it however you want to fix it. My mom usually fried it crispy, though, which is the yummiest. Don't be afraid to fry it. Dredge the slices in cornmeal and nothing else, which will soak up all that 'slime' and make a crisp coat when you fry it. If you like it au naturel in soup though, it's very good for the digestion.

Deb Baker said...

Up here in northern country, I never thought about where okra comes from. Is it on a tree? Don't laugh! I love gumbo and have made it with okra, but that's all I know. I'm trying both of these. But we don't have fresh okra, only frozen. Would that work?

Lisa Hall said...


Paula Deen, the queen of southern cooking, has stated that it doesn't make much difference whether you use fresh or frozen okra.

Donis Casey said...

Deb, like Lisa said, frozen okra is fine, if you'll thaw it first, and just between you and me, a lot easier to deal with.
and BTW, an okra plant is rather bush-like and can get waist high. It bears all summer, and it is prolific as heck.