A few days ago, I was playing around with cooking okra in a cast iron skillet, which is how my grandmother and mother cooked fried okra growing up. Once I moved away for college, fried okra changed into these little, golden nuggets which tasted okay, but it wasn't the slightly charred, toasted cornmeal okra that I grew up on.
Several times I have tried to replicate that okra, but I have always been somewhat impatient and tried to rush the process... until recently. Now, I lightly coat the cut okra in buttermilk and toss it in just enough seasoned cornmeal to cover it. Then, I place it in a medium-heated cast iron skillet with just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
At first, it was all I could do to keep from tossing while in the pan, but I resisted the urge until I started to smell the toasted cornmeal and see a little dark brown starting to form on the bottom. Once the okra was turned, I knew I was on the right track and slowly continued to cook the okra until it was the perfect dark green, brown, and in some places, black color.
After this "Ah ha!" moment, I started to wonder why it was done this way as opposed to deep frying which I'm sure some folks did. The one thing that came to mind as I thought about my Grandmother Mac was limited resources. Everything about those cooking ingredients was minimal and just enough of each element to make something amazing. I also remember it being even better the next day, cold and straight from the recycled Cool Whip tub/Tupperware container.
I'm still fine-tuning the recipe, but I will share it soon!