Like every good southerner, I grew up in a household where fried okra was a staple of the summertime dinner table. My mother absolutely loves fried okra. I, however, cannot stand it. Granted, I haven’t even tried to eat it since…um, since I was a little kid, but I remember how awful it was. Slimy. And then that cornmeal crust? Pass. Thankfully, fried okra was among the foods my mother prepared that she happily let me skip because it’s not terribly healthy. And that left more for her.
However, in the last year, I’ve grown some as an epicure and okrafficianado. Thanks to The Wild Hare, I discovered that I like pickled okra. Thanks to Smoke Et Al, I discovered that I like fried pickled okra. But I’m still not ready to try those little stumps of fried okra that I remember from childhood. I just know I won’t like them.
However, I have discovered another way to enjoy okra and it’s an easy and healthy one at that: roasted okra. Or, what I like to call them: oven roasted okra fries. Why? Well, they’re:
- In the oven
- They are made of okra
- They give me the feeling that I’m eating oven fries
Now, I’ve seen a lot of recipes for okra fries. Most call for breading of some sort. Some frying, even. But these require neither. You just wash and dry some fresh okra, cut it in half, arrange it seed-side up on a tray or cookie sheet (I use my toaster oven) and bake at 400F until they brown to your liking. I finish mine off with some smoked sea salt. They are a perfect savory snack. Healthy, low-calorie, and a helluva lot more satisfying and better-tasting than kale chips.
Why does this work? I think we all know the worst thing about okra is the slime. When you cut the okra in half and cook it seed side up, the slime bakes off. The longer you cook it, the drier and crisper it is. If you stop at the point that they’re just turning brown, the texture will be close to a traditional oven fry; that is, a little crispy on the ends, but kinda chewy. This is how I like them. Very satisfying to eat. But cook a little longer and you can get a crisper fry.
A couple of things to note, though. The okra will lose a lot of moisture in this process and the pieces will cook down to about 2/3 the size. Maybe even half the size. So plan accordingly. Also, you can grease your pan or lightly coat the okra if you still want to get the roasted taste, but want it to retain some of its slime. I mean, “moisture.” But why would you do that? You’re just adding unnecessary fat and calories. Just try it out dry. It’s pretty good. And this is coming from a dedicated fry lover and okra hater.
Oven-Roasted Okra Fries
20-30 pods (no longer than 4 inches long), sliced in half, lengthwise
salt to taste
Place the cut okra pods seed side up on a cookie sheet or oven-safe tray. Bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes or until browned and crisped. Add salt to taste and serve warm.