Fried Okra is one of summer’s best delights. There is nothing better than sitting down to a nice warm meal with fried okra and a side of corn bread. Mmm, doesn’t that just make your mouth water. Here is a fun fact, did you know that okra started out as a weed? That’s right, something that we would just cut down and discard. Okra is grown all over the world in warmer regions, and y’all know how warm it gets in the south! I have heard a lot of southerners call it okry instead of okra. A little confession here, until I was older and learned to spell the word I thought that it wasn’t called okry!
Let’s get started making us some okra for supper. Yes, it always starts with a good bath!
Now down south we call this a “mess”. No, not that the okra is messy, but that you have a “mess of okra” to cook. Let me translate that for you northerners. When it comes to okra it is measured in a “mess”. A mess is more or less a sliding scale. I know, it sounds confusing, but its super simple. You have a bowl full of okra or enough to cut and cook to feed your family, no matter what size your family may be. A mess for a family of four is smaller than a mess for a family of six. I hope that clears it up some for you.
Now once you have your okra thoroughly washed, you need to slice it up. How thick you slice it is really a personal preference thang. I don’t like my okra to be too slimy so I cut mine a little thinner than what you can buy in the freezer section of the grocery store. You can see that in the picture below.
Cutting the okra up is the worst part. Your hands get a little bit slimy but that’s OK, just give them a good wash and you’re back at it again. Now for me, I add a couple tablespoons of water to the bowl of cut okra. Just drizzle it over the okra and give it a stir with a spoon. This helps the cornmeal stick to the okra better if it is wet. This is also the part where you want to season your okra. Add your salt and pepper and give it another stir. Next you add your cornmeal, about 1/4 cup at a time, giving it a stir after each addition until you have your okra thoroughly coated as you can see in the picture below.
Now get out your frying pan and pour in the canola oil. Turn on the heat and get your skillet warm before adding the okra. I like to put a lid on mine for about five minutes to steam it a bit, but other than that, I cook my okra uncovered so it browns nicely and is less slimy. When your oil is heated add the okra. Add it slowly so that you don’t get any leftover cornmeal at the bottom of the bowl. Just take a spoon and slowly rake it into the skillet.
All the stirring you did while the okra was in the bowl was fine, but once you add it to the hot skillet, you do not want to over stir it or it will be mushy. Let it cook for 5 to 7 minutes (with a lid) before your turn the okra. After the first turn, leave the lid off and cook for 5 minutes longer, then turn again. Sometimes I find it necessary to add a little extra oil while the okra is cooking, but add as little as you can get away with because the extra oil adds extra calories.
When the okra has browned and is tender, it is done! Spoon it out into a bowl, (I use a spoon or a turner so I don’t get any excess oil in the bottom of the skillet). All that is left to do is eat it! Enjoy
Mess of okra
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 to 1 cup self-rising cornmeal mix (if you use all-purpose cornmeal you may have to add extra salt)
canola oil for frying. (I start off with 1/4 cup, but may need more during cooking)
Thoroughly was okra. Cut okra in slices over a bowl, as thick or thin as you like. Drizzle water over cut okra. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add cornmeal 1/4 cup at a time and stir after each addition. Continue this step until your okra is thoroughly coated. Preheat skillet with canola oil inside. Slowly rake okra into pan being careful not to add any excess cornmeal in the bottom of the bowl. Cover and fry for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn okra over and continue to cook uncovered for another 5 minutes. If you need any extra oil in your pan now is the time to add a little. Turn every five minutes until browned and tender. Enjoy!