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Okra Fritters

Studded with okra, onion and bacon, these munch-worthy fritters are southern-fried snacking at its best.

4 bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
2/3 cup finely chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced okra, about 8 ounces
1 large egg
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fine or medium stone-ground cornmeal
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cayenne, or to taste
1 tsp. kosher salt
Vegetable oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, leaving the drippings in the skillet.

Add the onion and okra to the skillet and stir to coat in the drippings. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the bacon, and set aside.

Whisk the egg and buttermilk in a medium bowl until the white and yolk are blended. Whisk in the cornmeal, sugar, cayenne and salt until smooth. Stir in the okra mixture.

Wipe the skillet clean and add oil to the depth of 1/4 inch. Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Working in batches, spoon 6 rounded tablespoons of batter into the hot oil. If the first fritter doesn’t sizzle around the edges immediately, the oil is not hot enough and the fritters will be greasy. Cook the fritters until they are firm and golden brown on the bottom, turn them over and cook the other side, about 2 minutes per side. Adjust the temperature to keep the oil hot. Transfer the fritters to the rack in the oven to keep them warm. (The rack lets the warm air circulate around the fritters, which keeps them from getting soddy.) Use a slotted spoon to skim out any debris that’s left in the oil between batches because this will eventually burn and ruin the oil. Continue with the rest of the batter. Serve immediately.

Note: The bacon, onion and okra mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Store covered and refrigerated. Stir well before using.

Makes about 24 fritters.

From The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes. Copyright © 2011 by Sheri Castle. Photographs © 2011 by Stewart Waller. Reprinted with permission from the University of North Carolina Press. www.uncpress.unc.edu

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