I came back from Georgia filled with Southern inspiration and several bagfuls of southern produce. The okra purchased at a farmer’s market just before we left was my favorite. And when I came home I was determined to try and remake it in a way that I found I loved. In Athens, we were lucky enough to have a superb dinner at Five and Ten. It was there I had some of the best okra I’d ever eaten. It was very simply perfectly seasoned then lightly charred in – most likely – a cast iron skillet.
Enter this super-summery dinner that’s cooked entirely outside and takes no more than about 10 minutes to prep in the kitchen. Tonight’s easy meal was chicken thighs (bone in, skin on please) rubbed with this quick spice mixture and left to marinate, and a ton of peak-season summer produce and a ton of flavor. But the star is the okra.
I know, you might have a thing with okra, right? Or you only eat it fried? Or in gumbo? Or perhaps, you just avoid it altogether. I challenge you to give this quick cooking method a try, it leaves all that incredible fresh okra taste with almost none of the things you might not like about okra (ahem, the slime). The trick is a high heat and, to begin with, a completely dry pan.
Favorite Athens Okra and Vegetables, serves two
15 small to medium sized okra pods, trimmed of the stem and halved on a deep diagonal
1 small summer squash, sliced
1 small tomato, chopped
1 ear of corn, kernels removed, (cob retained to later make a rich vegetable stock as a stand in for chicken stock)
2 T olive oil
3 sprigs thyme
salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients except the okra in a bowl. Heat either a cast iron skillet or a foil grill pan over the center of a grill until smoking hot. Add in the okra to the dry pan and allow to char on one side without stirring, about three to five minutes, depending on your pan and your fire. Now give the okra a stir, then add in the remaining ingredients and stir. Move the pan to the side of the grill for a more indirect heat and cook for another five to seven minutes, stirring frequently.
I seriously might make these exact vegetables again tomorrow night with a steak. And the next time, I am adding a lot more okra because I kept picking it out of the pan and snacking on it while the rest of the veggies were cooking. It’s almost addictive.
Playlist included The Only Place, by Best Coast. Be sure to give this one a listen, kids.