I use to watch, mortified, as my grandfather would use fresh biscuits to sop up his tomato and okra gravy. I wondered how something as slimly as okra could give him such obvious pleasure. It wasn’t until decades later that I grew to appreciate this summertime dish. Okra pods become tough and stringy as they age, so it’s best to use small tender ones for this dish. And the riper the tomato, the better, since ripe tomatoes have more juice and the juice is what gives this gravy its beautiful color.Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent by Jennifer Hill Booker, © 2014 Jennifer Hill Booker, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.
- 3 tablespoons bacon drippings
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ cup chicken stock, or water
- 5 medium garden fresh tomatoes, cored and sliced
- 1 pound tender young okra, cut into ½-inch pieces
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Pinch cayenne pepper
In a medium skillet over low heat, warm the bacon drippings.
Add the onion and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until soft, but do not brown. Add the flour, and stir for 5 minutes, or until it is well incorporated. Whisk the stock into the skillet, and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thick and smooth. Add the tomatoes and okra to the gravy, increase the heat to medium, and bring it to simmer again, stirring frequently. Cook 20 minutes, or until the okra softens and the tomatoes begin to break down, thickening the gravy. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, and continue to simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, until the okra has cooked through. The exact time will depend on how tender your okra is. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper. Serve the Tomato & Okra Gravy over white rice, or with Buttermilk Biscuits (recipe, p.98).