Texas popcorn is a popular way to enjoy a beloved Southern staple
Okra, a Southern staple, is believed to have originated somewhere around Ethiopia and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians by the 12th century.
People of various cultures cooked and ate the seed pods, dried and toasted the seeds, grinding them up as a coffee substitute and still do it to this day. Brought to the Caribbean and the rest of the New World by slaves, okra became popular with the Louisiana Creole people for its thickening properties, becoming an essential ingredient in Creole gumbo, according to historians.
There’s no escaping the fact that okra is slimy and sticky. And you can’t get rid of those traits by soaking or overcooking, but you can minimize them by frying okra and making “Texas Popcorn.” Be sure and look for young, tender pods as older, larger ones are woody in taste and texture.
2 pounds okra, sliced ½-inch thick
½ cup cornmeal
1 cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ cup buttermilk
Heat frying oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or high-sided skillet to 350 F. Fill no more than halfway up the sides.
In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour and seasonings. Dip okra in buttermilk and then dredge in cornmeal-flour mixture to coat well.
Carefully add okra to the hot oil and cook until golden brown. (It might be necessary to fry in batches). Remove from oil, drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.