This Fried Green Tomato Recipe Showcases the Best of South Carolina Lowcountry
Chef Steve Stone of the Charleston institution 82 Queen shares his take on the not-so-Southern classic
Located on and adjacent to the coast in the southeast corner of South Carolina between Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, the geographic region known as the Lowcountry is home to Southern staples like Country Captain, shrimp and grits and grilled, stewed, boiled, roasted, pickled or fried okra.
Another dish that comes fried, green tomatoes, also calls the area home. But, though the 1991 film based on Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe might make it appear otherwise, FGTs do not hail from the Southern U.S. and were likely introduced to the area in the early-to-mid 20th century by home economics teachers from the Northeast and Midwest. According to Robert Moss, the author of The Fried Green Tomato Swindle and Other Southern Culinary Adventures, fried green tomatoes have “a long history in American cooking, even if there isn’t much of a Southern twang to the story.”
Originally Southern or not, fried green tomatoes have had a big place in the culinary history of chef Steve Stone, who was born in the Lowcountry and grew up enjoying the dish at family gatherings. Now running the show at Charleston institution 82 Queen, the Johnson & Wales culinary school graduate has an elevated version of fried green tomatoes on the menu that also incorporates area favorites pimento cheese, grits and tomato bacon jam. Although fried green tomatoes aren’t typically a fine dining item, Stone believes he’s found a way to elevate the dish he was raised on to a level that satisfies 82 Queen’s clientele in downtown Charleston.
“One thing I’ve tried to do over the years here is to take some of the items I knew growing up and make them work for us,” Stone tells InsideHook. “I grew up with the tomatoes and bacon and grits and you’ll see ’em in a lot of my dishes. This was just another way to incorporate them into another dish. The creaminess of the grits gives you a nice base to put the green tomatoes on. Pimento cheese has also been a staple for me and my family, so I figured I might as well use it. The tomato bacon jam just adds a little tartness and sweetness and blends with the creamy grits.”
Pretty as a picture, Stone’s version of fried green tomatoes is certainly a high-end take on Lowcountry cuisine. “As a chef, you’re always looking for different things to do. You want everything you do to stand out. and you definitely don’t want it to be basic,” he says. “You’re always looking to do more with regard to taste and how it’s going to look on a plate. In a restaurant, you eat with your eyes as much as you do with your mouth. Presentation and making sure all the items complement each other is very important. There are so many different flavors and textures going on in this dish, but they all blend perfectly. The creaminess of the grits, the crunch of the tart tomato, the sweet jam and the zesty pimento cheese…it just all works.”
82 Queen’s Fried Green Tomatoes (serves 6)
Ingredients for the pimento cheese
- 4 oz. pimentos
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 12 oz. shredded cheddar
- 6 oz. shredded pepper jack
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- ½ tsp. hot sauce
- ½ tsp. granulated garlic
- ½ cup mayo
- Salt and pepper to taste
Directions for the cheese
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients together except shredded cheese.
- Once combined, fold in the cheese.
- Keep refrigerated.
Ingredients for the grits
- 8 cups heavy whipping cream
- 8 cups water
- 3 ½ cups adluh yellow stone ground grits
- 2 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. white pepper
Directions for the grits
- Bring liquid ingredients to a boil.
- Add grits and seasoning and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Reduce to a low simmer and let cook until grits are tender.
- Stir occasionally to prevent grits from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Ingredients for the tomato bacon jam
- 6 large ripe tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ yellow onion
- ½ red bell pepper diced
- ½ green bell pepper diced
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 3 ¼ cups sugar
- ½ tbsp. salt
- ½ cup tomato paste
- Tabasco, to taste
- ¼ tbsp. cinnamon
- 10 slices of bacon
Directions for the jam
- Dice and render bacon in a saucepan until crispy.
- Pulse tomatoes, garlic and onion in a food processor until finely chopped.
- Add mixture and all other ingredients (except bell peppers) to saucepan with bacon.
- Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Reduce to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring periodically.
- Add bell peppers and remove from heat.
Ingredients for the tomatoes
- 2 green tomatoes
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 3 cups panko
Directions for the tomatoes
- Slice tomatoes a quarter inch thick.
- Dust with seasoned flour. Dip in egg wash, then in panko.
- Fry in 350-degree oil until golden brown.
Putting the dish together
- Spread a layer of tomato bacon jam on a plate.
- Top with a generous serving of grits, then two fried green tomatoes.
- Add a scoop of pimento cheese to the top.
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