Seems just about everyone’s heard of fried green tomatoes. My Nana (grandmother) periodically made them, most often at the end of tomato season when she salvaged the remaining tomatoes from the plants in our garden.
But I particularly loved fried RED tomatoes. Oh, the joy of the sweet, juicy taste of summer only a tomato fresh from the garden or roadside farm stand treats the taste buds to.
Early in tomato season in the Coal Region, we sometimes snagged those red gems from a local farmer who planted an early maturing variety, but the vast majority of the tomatoes that found their way onto my family’s table came from the side-yard garden my Dad planted without fail every spring.
All winter long, Pop trudged out to the little patch with scraps left over from cooking and fed his compost pile. Come the week before Memorial Day weekend, he could be found with a spade, turning over and breaking up clumps of fertile soil in preparation for an upcoming planting.
The stars of the garden and benefactors of his efforts were the tomato plants he bought at a local hardware store in plastic flats of 6 from the cinder block and wood pallet display outside the store’s entrance.
Every once in awhile, he was late purchasing the plants and a few came home resembling the sad Christmas tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas. But he seemed undaunted and planted them deep — their first set of leaves at ground level — with as much love and care as always. His efforts were often rewarded with tomato plants that looked by mid-season as if they should be gracing the pages of Better Homes and Gardens.
As I have mentioned before, my Pop took great pleasure in a job well done and simple things in life brought him much joy. Every year, Mom and I waited to hear the “whoop” of joy come floating through the open screen door from the yard where Dad had plucked the first ripe homegrown tomato from the vine. It was tradition for him to have that one and Mom and I stood by taking in his enthusiasm as he bit into it like he was eating an apple.
As the season progressed and the tomatoes grew and ripened in rapid succession, it was not unusual to have a kitchen window sill full of tomatoes that were ready to eat and sliced tomatoes on the table with every meal…and I mean every meal.
I remember begging my Nana to help her make fried tomatoes as a small child. Until it was safe for me to be at the stove and a hot frying pan, I was the “official dredger”. Because I loved golden fried breaded food, I always “double-dipped” (double coated) the tomato slices in the egg and breadcrumbs. To this day, I love to make a breading patty from left-over egg wash and the remaining breadcrumbs from dredging and fry it up right alongside the tomatoes. Sadly, the day I shot this photo was the one and only time there were no leftovers from the dredging to fry!
Nana’s recipe was simple; no corn meal, no fancy spices, just breaded tomato slices, fried to a crispy crunch. She always sprinkled them with a touch of granulated sugar before serving piping hot.
As I await the first REAL tomato of the season, I think of Dad and his plants and wish I could hear that shout of joy again from the garden.
Nana’s Fried Red TomatoesCourse: Entree, Side DishCuisine: Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy
Sweet, juicy and fried to a delicious golden brown, these can outshine their more famous cousin, fried green tomatoes.
4 or 5 ripe, but firm red slicing tomatoes
1/2 cup all purpose flour or as needed
1 1/2 cup dry plain or seasoned breadcrumbs or as needed
2 eggs, beaten with 2 T water
Salt and black pepper to taste
Oil and butter for frying.
- Cut out stem (/core) of tomatoes; slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices crosswise.
- Set up a dredging station with one container flour, a second with the beaten egg and water, and a third with the bread crumbs.
- Cover bottom of frying pan with oil and add 1 Tablespoon butter to melt. Heat until butter sizzles.
- Dredge tomato slice in flour on both sides, shake off excess, dip in egg wash, then in breadcrumbs covering each side well. (If desired, repeat egg/breadcrumb dip and layer – I always do!)
- Place the breaded tomato slice in frying pan and fry a few minutes until golden brown on one side; flip and brown the other side. Don’t overcrowd the pan; fry in batches if need be.
- Remove from pan to paper-lined tray to remove excess grease, place on serving plate. You can keep warm in the oven set to 190F degrees if frying a lot at one time and you must do them in batches.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. My Nana always sprinkled a pinch of granulated sugar on top before serving.
- I always use the slice on the very end with the hole in it where you cored, too, when breading. Can’t let that go to waste!