Country Cooking With A Southern Flair

Country cooking elicits visions of straight-from-the-garden vegetables and farm-fresh meats and dairy. For those in the United States, country cooking and Southern cooking may be thought of as interchangeable, as so many homespun meals are made that much more delicious with some southern influence.

Buttermilk-infused recipes are part of any country cook’s repertoire, as are crispy, fried foods. That’s the pairing in this delicious side dish or appetizer for “Buttermilk-Battered Okra Fries With Comeback Sauce” from “Southern Appetizers: 60 Delectables for Gracious Get-Togethers” (Chronicle Books) by Denise Gee.

Buttermilk-Battered Okra Fries With Comeback Sauce
Serves 6
(About six fries each; makes 2 cups sauce)

Comeback Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1⁄4 cup chili sauce
1⁄4 cup ketchup
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons finely grated sweet or white onion or 1⁄4 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon or yellow mustard
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1⁄4 teaspoon hot or smoked paprika
Salt (optional)

Okra Fries
Canola or corn oil for frying
8 ounces small to medium okra pods, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1 cup buttermilk (or enough to cover okra)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup cornstarch
1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

To make the sauce: In a food processor, purée the mayonnaise, chili sauce, ketchup, olive oil, garlic, onion, Worcestershire, lemon juice, mustard, black pepper, hot sauce, and paprika. (Or use a medium bowl and whisk to combine all the ingredients.) Season with salt, if needed, cover tightly, and let the sauce sit overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

To make the okra: Place several layers of paper towels atop a paper bag or platter. Keep it close to where you’ll be frying.

In an electric fryer, Dutch oven, or heavy cast-iron skillet, add canola oil to a depth of 2 to 4 inches. Heat to 350 F. (If you’re not using an electric fryer, use a fry/candy thermometer to ensure the temperature stays consistent.)

In a medium bowl, soak the sliced okra in the buttermilk and set aside.

In a large paper bag or large plastic zip-top bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne (if using).

Drain the buttermilk-soaked okra and dredge it in the flour mixture. Carefully shake off any excess flour. Fry in batches of seven or eight pieces for 2 to 3 minutes or until crispy and light golden brown, turning them carefully midway through.

Use a fry basket or slotted spoon to remove the okra to drain on the paper towels. While still hot, season the okra with additional salt, if desired.

Serve the okra fries immediately with the sauce.

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