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Pan-Roasted Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes

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Serves 6

  • by Matt Lee, Ted Lee from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen

Charring okra and corn in a cast-iron skillet brings high-summer cookout spirit to the classic Lowcountry vegetable trinity. The resulting caramelized, sweet vegetable flavor is the perfect complement to the acidity of fresh tomatoes that have been gently stewed with some onion, garlic, and bacon. You can turn this into a vegetarian dish in a snap by substituting a healthy pinch of smoked sweet paprika for the bacon, adding it to the pan along with the onion and garlic. Since you’ll lose the fat rendered by the bacon, you should add up to a tablespoon more vegetable oil to make sure the onions and garlic don’t brown.

  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
  • 8 oz. fresh okra, halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups corn kernels (from 2 large ears)
  • 2 lb. fresh tomatoes
  • 2 oz. slab bacon, cut into large dice
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1 large garlic clove, mashed to a paste
  • 1 to 2 tsp. vinegar, either red wine, white wine, or distilled white (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until very hot and brush lightly with vegetable oil. In a bowl, toss the okra with 1 Tbs. of the oil and season with 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook the okra in the pan in two batches, turning once, until charred and tender, 3 to 4 minutes per batch depending on the size and freshness of your okra. Reserve in a bowl so you can reuse the cast-iron skillet.

Add 1 Tbs. of the oil to the corn and season with 1/4 tsp. of the salt. Add the corn to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly charred in spots, about 3 minutes. Reserve the corn in a bowl, separate from the okra.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Score the tomato bottoms with an X. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water and blanch for 10 seconds to loosen their skins. Transfer the tomatoes to the ice water to cool. Core and peel the tomatoes, and halve them crosswise. Working over a sieve set in a bowl, tease out the seeds with your fingers. Press on the seeds to extract the juice, then discard them. Chop the tomatoes and reserve them in the bowl of their juice.

Pour the remaining tablespoon oil into the skillet over medium-high heat, and when it shimmers, add the bacon. Sauté the bacon until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes, then add the onion and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes, allowing the onion to release some moisture, but not letting it brown. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute to let its flavor bloom (do not brown the garlic). Then add the tomatoes, and stir to combine. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for about 4 minutes until the tomatoes have mostly collapsed.

Add the corn, stir to combine, and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the okra, stir, and cook just until the okra is heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with the vinegar (which you may or may not need, depending upon the acidity of the tomatoes), salt, and black pepper; serve.

Photo: Squire Fox

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