Fried Green Tomatoes with a Sweet Corn Timbale

When I was a child in England, trying to ripen tomatoes in our kitchen garden was always a race with the weather, and when my mother gave up on tomatoes, I still insisted on planting them every year. Even when I started the plants in a greenhouse to get a head start on the season, the tomatoes rarely made it to full red ripeness before the sun disappeared into the October fogs. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Jane Grigson’s British Cookery lists no recipes for tomatoes.

So in England we had to do with green tomatoes. When they first appeared on the table, fried, all the children were shocked (though not so much as when an apple and green tomato pie was put onto the table), but I have adored them ever since. Now I would be tempted to use Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes, even though they are not “green” as in unripe, and would therefore fry them for half the time given here.

You will need four 6-ounce ramekins.

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Ingredients

Timbales

  • 2 cups fresh, young corn, kernels cut from the cobs (about 6 cobs)
  • ¼ cup fresh chervil leaves, chopped
  • cups milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • pinch salt
  • freshly ground white pepper

Tomatoes

  • 3–4 large green tomatoes, cored
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup tomato, lemon, and olive oil sauce
  • ½ cup nasturtium or herb flowers
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Cook the corn in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, drain, and puree, adding 4 tablespoons of the cooking water, until smooth. Mix in the chervil.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and boil 3 quarts of water.

Beat the milk, eggs, salt and pepper until smooth. Add the corn-chervil mix and stir well.

Butter the four ramekins.

Put the corn puree in a nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture just begins to thicken. Immediately pour the mixture into the ramekins, and put them in an ovenproof dish or baking pan that is just deeper than the ramekins. Put the pan in the oven, and fill it with boiling water to come three-quarters of the way up the ramekins.

Cook until the corn custard mix is just barely set (20 to 30 minutes) and take them out of the oven and water to cool.

While the timbales are cooking, mix 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons black pepper into the flour. Cut the tomatoes into 8½-inch slices. After you take out the timbales, dredge the tomato slices in the flour. Heat the oil in a skillet, and fry the tomatoes on each side over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until the tomatoes are tender but still have some firmness. Keep the slices hot until all are fried.

Pour the milk into the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes, scraping all the bits stuck to the pan.

Put two slices on top of each other in the center of each hot plate. Pour the gravy over. Invert the timbales on top of the tomato stack and spoon some of the tomato, lemon, and olive oil sauce on top, passing the rest separately. Garnish with the flowers.

Variations

Add deep-fried okra to the dish, served around the tomatoes. Or use mint-sage-rosemary pesto sauce on top of the timbale.

Carrots

May 21, 1984. Oil, spackle, and tar on tile, 12" x 12". Private collection.

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