You know those "you might be a redneck" jokes by Jeff Foxworthy? Well, I am sure there is one about growing and eating okra. Yes. I grow okra. And yes. I cannot wait to fry up the first batch each summer. Right now, I've got more okra than I can give away, in fact. Okra is a lot like zucchini. At first, you think it isn't going to grow and then you have so many, you cannot eat it all or give it away. People actually run when they see you coming with a basket full of zucchini or okra because they probably have more than they can eat at their house, too.
You really have to watch the okra in the garden. It can quickly get away from you if you are not careful and go from perfect to tough in a day. Whether picking it yourself or shopping for it at the store or farmer's market, you want the tender, young okra. Bigger is not better. The larger okra pods have tough husks and are too chewy.
Growing up, fried okra was always a real treat. To me, a freshly picked homegrown tomato, a pile of fried okra and a deviled egg or two on my plate is all I need to make a perfect summer supper. Growing up, my mom would put a bowl of fried okra on the table and we'd fight over it like candy. There was never enough.
Most folks use buttermilk for frying okra but since I don't always have buttermilk and always have heavy cream in the fridge, I use heavy cream. I also think it sticks to the okra better.
WHIPPING CREAM FRIED OKRA
4 cups fresh okra, sliced into 1/2" pieces (this is probably about a pound of okra)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream (you can use buttermilk)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup self-rising cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
scant pinch, cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Cut the tips and stem end off each okra pod and slice into 1/2" pieces.
Put the heavy cream into a bowl. Add the sliced okra. Let it soak for 15-20 minutes.
Make the dredge in a large bowl or zip top bag by combining the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
Working in small batches, use a slotted spoon or a strainer to remove the okra from the whipping cream. Add the drained okra to the dredge mixture. Toss well to coat evenly. Remove from the dredge using a slotted spatula or a slotted spoon and shake it a bit to allow the excess flour to fall off. (otherwise this excess will fall into the oil and burn as you are frying the okra) You want a light coating on the okra, not a heavy, solid breading like you often see with fried okra at restaurants. You want to be able to see the okra.
NOTE: I have frozen the okra at this point by spreading it out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Once frozen, I put it into single serving zip top bags and it is ready to fry when I need it. I doesn't keep well for a long period of time- use it within a month or so.
To fry: Add vegetable oil to 2" deep on your frying pan, cast iron skillet, or Dutch oven. I like canola oil. My mom used Crisco vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 360 degrees or test it by dropping a piece of okra in the hot oil. You want the okra to sizzle when you drop it into the oil but not too hot that it burns up before the okra is cooked fully.
Again, working in small batches, add a single layer of okra to the hot oil in the pan. Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels. Repeat.
Check the seasoning- sometimes I will add a sprinkle of salt when the okra comes out of the hot oil.