Fried green tomatoes at the Root Cafe | Rock Candy

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fried green tomatoes at the Root Cafe

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 8:58 AM

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The recent cover story that Dan and I did for our Thanksgiving issue was an incredible amount of fun — we got to talk with some of the best and brightest stars in our culinary sky about what they like to cook. Getting the low-down on cooking from a chef is a window into the thought process and technique that these men and women use every day to produce the good things we eat.

Unfortunately, I ran out of room before I could include several recipes, including one from Jack Sundell of the Root Cafe. Known for everything from breakfast to burgers to great vegetarian cuisine, the Root has become one of Little Rock's most popular restaurants in its two years of existence. The Root exemplifies the locavore movement that has grown up in Central Arkansas over the past few years, and few places are doing it as well as Jack and the Root crew.

Which brings me to Jack's recipe for fried green tomatoes, a dish that is not only classic Southern cooking, but also one that emphasizes local produce. Join me down there under the jump for a look at the Root's culinary philosophy and one of the tastiest recipes I've read lately.

First, Jack Sundell explains what the Root is all about:

Our food philosophy here at the Root is simple: Local, fresh, and seasonal. 100% of the meat we serve is raised in Arkansas, all of our bread is baked locally, and most of the fruits, vegetables, and cheeses we serve are locally sourced. Our main menu items feature foods with year-round local availability, and we base our breakfast and lunch specials on what farmers are harvesting seasonally.

For this reason, we love serving fried green tomatoes in late fall: A lot of farmers are pulling their tomato plants, either to make room for cold-weather crops or because a freeze is in the forecast, so there are a lot of green tomatoes available. You can find them at the Hillcrest or Argenta Farmers Market on Saturday mornings or at Bernice Garden on Sundays. We've been using green tomatoes from Tasty Acres in Scott, AR for fried green tomatoes the last couple of weeks; we use stone-ground cornmeal from War Eagle Mill in Rogers in the flour-cornmeal mix, and we fry in Arkansas rice bran oil provided by Natural State Oil.

The Root's Fried Green Tomatoes

* 2 pounds green tomatoes, core removed and sliced in 3/8" rounds
* 1 cup Bulgarian buttermilk
* 1 cup flour
* 1/2 cup cornmeal
* 1 tsp. salt
* 1 tsp. black pepper
* 1/4 tsp. cayenne
* High temp frying oil, such as rice bran or canola

Heat frying oil in a heavy dutch oven or cast iron pot to 375 degrees.

Go to Spotify, select Dwight Yoakam, and start the Dwight Sings Buck album.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl.

Immerse sliced green tomatoes in buttermilk. When oil is nearing temp, pick up green tomato slices and toss in flour-cornmeal mixture to coat well. Keep slices covered in mixture until frying time.

Once oil is up to temp, shake off excess flour mixture and gently drop green tomato slices into the oil. Make sure heat is all the way up on the oil. Fry for the duration of the song "Under Your Spell Again" (see step 2) (about three to three-and-a-half minutes), until tomatoes are deep golden brown. Fry tomatoes in 3 or 4 separate batches to avoid cooling oil down too much.

Toss fried green tomatoes in salt and pepper to taste; serve each batch piping hot with a dipping sauce like buttermilk dill or ranch dressing.

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