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The following recipes for okra all have in common a quick cooking time at high heat that results in the best texture for okra. Overcooking or using too low a heat yields a soft and mushy product that is often not desirable. When shallow frying avoid crowding the pan, and if you do not have a wok or large sauté pan, cook the vegetables in batches so that the heat remains consistent.
CHICKEN & OKRA STIRFRY
With RICE NOODLES
This recipe utilizes oyster sauce that can be found at an international market or aisle and although it may sound weird, the flavor is actually mild yet rich and wonderful paired with vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and okra. I use a blended seasoning for the chicken that has a mixture of garlic, ginger & sesame seeds, but some salt and pepper will work just as well. Rice noodles need to be cooked and then rinsed thoroughly before reheating with the sauce so that they are not overly starchy- it is a good idea to coat the noodles with some sesame or plain oil after rinsing so that they do not stick together too much.
1 Pound Chicken breast, sliced thinly
2 Tablespoons Sesame Ginger Seasoning, or other
1/3 Cup Cornstarch
½ medium yellow Onion, sliced into strips
1 large Bell Pepper, any color, sliced into strips
8 ounces Okra, washed and trimmed for uniformity
6 Garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek (chili paste), or more to taste
1 Cup Chicken Stock
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
¼ Cup Oyster Sauce
¼ Cup Grapeseed Oil, divided
1 pack Rice Noodles
Cook noodles according to packet directions, strain, rinse thoroughly and then coat with a little sesame oil. Meanwhile combine cornstarch and seasoning and combine with chicken to coat each piece evenly and the pieces are separated and dryish. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large sauté pan and then add chicken, spreading it out to cook evenly and working in batches to avoid over-crowding the pan if necessary. Turn the chicken so that at least 2 sides are golden and the cornstarch is fried- use more oil if required. Remove from the pan and keep warm in a separate bowl close by. Wipe out the pan briefly with a paper towel and return to heat. Pour in remaining oil and carefully add onion, pepper, okra and garlic. Use tongs to keep the vegetables moving around so they cook evenly for about 2 minutes- look for the onion to have a little color and the pepper to be slightly wilted. At this time pour in stock, soy sauce and Sambal. Cook for one minute and then return chicken to the pan. The sauce will begin to thicken after 30 seconds or so, then add the oyster sauce for the last 30 seconds before tossing in the rice noodles- if the sauce thickens too much add a Tablespoon of water at a time until desired consistency. Alternatively, if your pan is too small, pour boiling water over the noodles to reheat separately in a colander and then portion into bowls before dividing the stirfry over the top.
Looking for the taste of fried okra without the calories? This is how you do it! An oven with convection fan yields the best results, but if you have no fan, simply rotate the ppan and turn over each piece to cook evenly. Adjust oven rack to highest position and turn on fan if possible. Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs that have a light texture and are well suited for this recipe- stuffing mix will work equally well if first pulsed in a food processor to break down the largest pieces.
8 ounces medium Okra, about 24 pieces
¼ Cup Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
2 Cups Panko or breadcrumb stuffing mix
Dipping Sauce- White BBQ sauce is great!
Wash okra thoroughly so as to remove any fine hairs that can be irritating and then dry with paper towels. Trim the stem ends and cut any larger pieces in half for uniformity. Whisk together the mustard and mayonnaise in a medium size bowl. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or foil and grease with panspray liberally. Dip a few pieces of okra at a time into the mustard mixture and then in breadcrumbs, pressing them all over to coat as thickly as possible, and then place on greased baking sheet. Repeat for remaining okra, spreading out all the pieces so that they have plenty of room between each. Use panspray to coat each piece liberally with a fine mist and place on top rack of oven. Bake for 8-12 minutes, turning halfway through. Breadcrumbs should be dark brown and crispy. Serve on a platter with dipping sauce or as a side vegetable.
CORNMEAL FRIED OKRA & EGGPLANT
Joseph Lenn, formerly of Blackberry Farm and James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast 2013 winner, shared this recipe with Sean Brock that demonstrated a simple way that his family prepares okra. I have incorporated eggplant into the mix as the quick cooking method is perfect for creating a crispy exterior and soft & fluffy interior that complements the okra beautifully. This is not a low calorie recipe however as the oil is soaked up into the cornmeal and eggplant during frying- balance the dish with grilled meat or fish and a light salad or steamed potatoes!
8 ounces medium- large Okra, sliced into ½ inch rounds
1 large Eggplant, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 Cup Hickory King Cornmeal
Oil for shallow frying, about 2 Cups or more
Salt & Pepper to season
Set a medium cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in oil to reach a ½ inch up the sides. Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl and then pour in okra and eggplant pieces. Use a spoon to coat all the pieces thoroughly and then pour in cornmeal, tossing to coat evenly. Check that oil is hot by sprinkling a pinch of cornmeal into the oil and see that it rises instantly and disperses without becoming black- if it is too hot it will smoke, if it is too cold it will sink and stay at the bottom of the pan. (for a video on this click here) Add vegetables in batches and fry until golden and crisp, turning over to cook evenly, about 3 minutes. Transfer onto a paper towel-lined tray to soak up excess oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Repeat for remaining product and serve straight awa