A few years ago I posted my recipe for fried okra. The straight forward version featured okra soaked in buttermilk, tossed with a mixture of flour and corn flour then deep fried to crispy heaven. It’s traditional, crispy and perfect. Perfect except for one small thing – the deep fried part. I just can’t deep fry anymore. Not only because of me (still) trying (and failing) to lose weight, but also because of the little ones. The last thing you want to be doing with precious little angels (devils) running around the kitchen is to be playing around with boiling oil. Just the thought of it makes me cringe and run for an anti-anxiety pill.
The first time I tried oven-frying okra, I got a good flavor and a decent crunch, but the coating didn’t brown properly and it didn’t taste fried – with fried okra that’s important! To fix both problems I tried mixing a little of the oil right into the flour/corn flour mixture before tossing it with the okra. That did it. Just one tablespoon of oil mixed with the flour is enough to help the coating brown more evenly. The other thing that helped is using a little extra buttermilk. It turns the dry coating into more of a batter that cooks up crunchy and flavorful but still lets the okra flavor come through too. This is not fat-free okra, but the whole recipe only uses three tablespoons of oil. I use olive oil because I like the flavor and I also like the health benefits, but canola or any cooking oil would work in this recipe.
This oven method is so easy and hassle-free that I’m not sure I’ll ever deep fry okra again. When transferring the okra from the paper to the baking pan, your hands may get a bit gooey, but there’s no frying and that alone makes it worthwhile. It can also be made ahead of time by cooking it most of the way, then popping it in a hot oven for a few minutes right before serving. Enjoy!
1 16-ounce bag frozen cut okra, thawed (1 pound fresh okra sliced)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 cup corn flour (finely ground masa harina)
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
non-stick cooking spray
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cut and thawed okra with the buttermilk and allow it to sit for ten minutes. Transfer the okra to a strainer set over the sink or another bowl and allow extra buttermilk to drain while you make the coating.
In a medium-sized bowl combine the corn flour, salt and pepper. Drizzle one tablespoon of oil over the flour and cut in with a fork or your fingers until all lumps of oil are completely mixed in and the breading will hold together when pinched.
Spread the remaining two tablespoons of oil over the bottom of an unlined rimmed baking sheet. Set aside. Pour the okra into the bowl with the corn flour. Using a fork or your fingers toss the okra in the corn flour until all the pieces have separated and all the okra is coated in corn flour. You can use your fingers to toss any pieces of okra that didn't get coated completely and separate any clumps of okra, but a few pieces sticking together is okay. Spread the okra on the greased baking pan. Spray the top side of the okra lightly with oil or non-stick cooking spray.
Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to turn the okra. Spray again with oil or non-stick cooking spray and return the okra to the oven. Cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from the oven a second time and test the okra to see if is done to your liking. If you are making the okra ahead of time or if you like okra on the softer side then stop at this point. If you like super crunchy crispy okra turn the okra again, spray again and return to the oven. Cook the okra for another 10-15 minutes or until the okra is crunchy enough for you. Remove from the oven and season to taste with additional salt. Try not to eat all of it before you get it to the table. To reheat or finish cooking after making it ahead return it to a 425 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
This recipe was updated on 12/27/2014 adding the amount of olive oil, increasing the amount of corn flour and omitting the flour. Changes were made based on additional recipe testing. -RR
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