Usually, I can’t seem to find quality okra in most supermarkets… it is a food for a distinct audience, which doesn’t seem to include my New England environment. But I do find it in East Asian and in Indian groceries, and so I’ve now turned to buying it there. (You can find it frozen in some supermarkets… this does work fine for Creole and jambalayas, but frozen does tend to go towards the mushy in certain other preparations where that texture is not desirable.)
I guess another problem is the slime. Frankly, I don’t mind the slime, but I understand it bothers many potential eaters of okra.
I’d guess about 20 years ago I was tooling along Route 81 in Virginia, when I got hungry. The only place in sight that I thought I could consider was a Cracker Barrel. So, I pulled off the highway, and went in to peruse the menu.
OKRA on the menu!!!! I was totally sussed. I mean, OKRA? I’d only ever seen this wonderful vegetable at my parent’s home, and to see that a restaurant, however much a chain, served it… I dang well had to get my teeth into it!
It was battered and fried, but that couldn’t be that bad, could it? Not a prep my parents had ever made. I ordered the fried shrimp, too. I didn’t expect I’d get very many shrimp, as shrimp are pricy and a chain can’t be expected to provide many — but it was the okra I really wanted. Seriously… okra??? I drooled in anticipation!
Wow. Just… wow.
And, just SO not in a good way.
The shrimp were tiny popcorn shrimp. Batter fried in a batter that was so thick you could hardly find the shrimp. There were a lot of them, I’ll give the “restaurant” that. But you had to get out all your archeological tools to find each and every one of them, and dig into them (at some point dropping all pretense, and discarding the excess batter).
And, the okra? Some poor human (or machine) had sliced every last one of them into portions about 1/4 inch in length. And then dipped them into a thick, bland, unhealthy, repulsive batter that more than equaled the amount of okra hidden within.
I ate a few of each object, and then decided, since I didn’t know if there was any other place to stop and eat with actual food until I got to my destination, to peal the batter off the poor long suffering okra and shrimp. I did this until I was bored enough to pay and get up and go. I didn’t care if it looked rude or not, since basically I was never going to return. You cook me garbage… sorry. (I did not take, and do not EVER take, my tipping out on the server; these things aren’t wait-staff fault.)
My parents had never served batter-fried okra. They’d never battered it. So until then I’d only had it pan-fried with tomatoes, onions and whatever else they liked, or I’d had it pickled (which is truly quite good). I think I’d had it in a gumbo or two by then. Maybe even in a vegetarian Indian dish. Slime or not, I liked okra.
So now, I want to create a GOOD battered okra recipe, something I’d love to share on this blog.
Parameters: baked with a Paleo breading, and not fried in oil. I have seen a recipe or two with almond or cashew breading that are indeed Paleo, but I have difficulties digesting certain tree nuts. So, I am going with the one I know I can eat: coconut. This will provide a different flavor profile, but I’m fine with that. My earlier experience did not give me any sort of hope regarding the “traditional” batter to begin with.
I also refuse to chop the poor okra buds into quarter inch lengths, because I do want to taste the okra. It is good. It is healthy. It is an insult to okra (or any real food substance) to chop it into quarter inch lengths and bread it to within an inch (actually well-less) of its life, and serve it.
I also planned on minimizing slime. Because I think many people who would love to try to cook okra would love to find a recipe that will do this. One source, I forget where, said slice the okra in half, lengthwise. So, I’m doing that.
I also figure that baking this rather than deep frying it in oil (since I’m already changing up so much here!) would be worth a try. We end up hitting a lot of buckets: vegan, Paleo, Whole 30, gluten-free, no almonds, low/no slime, low fat, and something resembling actual okra in the dish!
I only cooked up a sample for this recipe (in case it didn’t work out).
Okay, let’s GO!!!
Prep time: 10 minutes.
Cook time: 12 minutes.
Rest time: I’d let them cool two or three minutes before diving in.
Serves: Use 15-20 okra per person
Leftovers: Reheat in a hot oven if you want them to retain some crispiness.
Okra: Breaded and Baked
This recipe is per-person, and assumes a primary focus would be okra, but you will want something as a supplement/side.
- 15-20 okra, if about 2-2.5 inches long. Remove tops, and cut them in half lengthwise. If they are longer than two or two and a half inches, you can cut those again once (maybe twice) crosswise. (Usually the smaller are tender-er).
- 1/4 cup arrowroot powder (or coconut flour). Prepare to need more…
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/3 cup coconut flakes. Prepare to need more.
- Salt and pepper to taste (you can add in other seasonings as desired, perhaps a hint of cumin.)
Preheat oven to 350 F/ 177 C.
Set up bowls or plates for the arrowroot, egg, and coconut flakes. Either season the coconut flakes now or wait until the okra is in the pan.
Roll the okra through the arrowroot, then the egg, then the coconut flakes.
Lay outside surface up in a baking pan, one layer only.
Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until coconut turns gently brown. Keep an eye on the oven.
Conclusion: this recipe does not at all taste like that from Cracker Barrel, so if you were wanting that, please seek elsewhere. (Note, after 20 some years, I still remember how greasy and awful that breading-thing tasted…)
I did find myself wanting a side of pineapple salad in a bed of crispy lettuce with this!!! But now, I have a new way of preparing tasty okra. I think next time I’ll be adding some Thai seasonings to the coconut flakes, or something. But take your flavor profile any direction that suits you.