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Weekend Chef: Grilled Okra Fries

Posted 4:55pm on Thursday, Mar. 07, 2013

I love okra, but it was not always that way.

My mom introduced me to okra by boiling it and, boy, was that a mistake. It was very slimy, and I ended up hiding most of it in my napkin. It almost ruined okra for me for life.

But then I had fried okra at my grandma's house and it was great. No slime! It took me a couple of visits to realize that this was the same vegetable my mother had served me.

So what’s up with this slime thing? Turns out okra has mucilage, a syrupy substance that is also in aloe vera. It is nature's way of helping dry-climate plants retain moisture, and when you cut up okra, that syrupy substance is released.

So what can you do to minimize the slime? Water and cut okra makes slime. So, whatever you do, don’t boil it unless you are using it as a thickener in something like a gumbo.

When prepping okra, make sure the exterior is totally dry before cutting. The more crosscuts you make, the more mucilage is released, so try making fewer cuts or cut lengthwise to reduce the slime potential.

Salt your okra just before or after cooking; salt tends to draw out moisture, or in this case, slime.

Try using a breading, like corn meal. It will help absorb the slime.

Use a dry method of cooking, like roasting or frying.

And last but not least, if you do cook okra in water, acids like lemon juice and vinegar can help break down the slime.

Now that we have the slime under control, let's make some crispy okra fries, which are similar to potato fries and are great with burgers. I like making a roasted garlic and lemon aioli (mayonnaise) dipping sauce for the fries.

Grilled Okra Fries

Ingredients

    For okra
  • 1 pound okra, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon season salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup corn meal
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • For Aioli
  • 1 pasteurized egg*
  • ½ lemon for juice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (Canola or Olive)
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Pepper
  • *The egg I am using is pasteurized (has a little red "P" stamped on it), you can usually find them in the egg aisle at the grocery story. They cost a little more but are safe for raw use.

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven or grill to 450ºF.

  2. Wash okra, then pat dry with paper towels. Let okra air dry a few more minutes, then trim off caps and cut okra in half lengthwise. Place okra in a large bowl, add season salt, pepper and olive oil and hand toss the okra to evenly distribute the seasoning and oil. Add corn meal and toss again.

  3. Lay okra out in a single layer on a baking sheet or grill basket. Cover with sprigs of thyme. If you are planning to make the aioli, cut a head of garlic and a lemon in half and add to the baking sheet/grill basket and pour a little olive oil on top of the cut garlic.

  4. Roast okra for 15 minutes in a 450ºF oven or grill.

  5. To make aioli (roasted garlic mayonnaise), squeeze out cloves from the head of garlic that was roasted and add them to a small bowl along with the juice from one half of the roasted lemon. Add the pasteurized egg, mustard, salt and pepper and mix together with a small hand blender. You can also do this in a small food processor.

  6. Pour in the oil in a slow stream while blending with the hand blender.

  7. As you are blending it should start looking like mayonnaise, once that happens you can start pouring the oil in a little faster. Keep blending until all the oil is blended. You can use the Aioli as a dipping sauce or as a zesty mayonnaise.

The okra turned out great with no slime. The roasted garlic and lemon aioli made a great dipping sauce and only took minutes to make.

Be sure to check out the slideshow above for step-by-step pictures.

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