Today was the day the Northern boy cooked okra. I don't think I'd ever eaten this Southern and African staple before. I had thought i'd had okra, but now I'm not so sure. Or, if I had, it was a prepackaged mess that was cooked within an inch of its life, and nothing like the real fresh article prepared in your own kitchen.
I bought fresh okra from the farmstand. I've been told that in matters of purchasing okra, size matters, but in this case you want small okra rather than the big personal self-defense size you sometimes see. The big stuff is just too tough.
What turns most people off of okra is the goop that oozes from it when cut. If you refrigerate your okra (not freeze, but refrigerate), you'll slow the goop down a bit, but basically you're going to have to learn to deal with it if you want to enjoy this vegetable. The goop is actually very useful if making a stew or gumbo as it helps to thicken the liquid up. And once fried, the goop just isn't a factor.
How's this taste? Great. It's a little chewy, which I like (if you don't, cook your okra longer), and has a lot of good flavor. Some recipes call for soaking the cut okra in salt water for a significant period of time before drying and frying. I'll try that next time, but I'm not unhappy with the unsoaked vegetable.
Wash and dry a pint of okra. Cut the tops and tails off each pod and discard. Slice the okra 1/4"-1/2" thick on the bias. Place the cut okra in a big bowl. Pour 1/2 cup of whole milk or half and half over the okra.
In a separate bowl, add a cup of corn meal, two teaspoons of garlic powder, a generous pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix well.
Drain the milk off the okra. Stir the cornmeal mix into the bowl of okra pieces.
Heat enough peanut oil in a nine inch skillet over medium-high heat. You want hot, but not smoking oil. Gently place the okra pieces into the oil, stirring to separate and to get each piece coated with hot oil. Fry for about five-eight minutes, or until the okra takes on a golden brown color. Drain, blot, and serve. Serves two.