Some like the okra in this classic pairing quickly cooked and crunchy; others like to simmer it for a long time. This recipe, from James Villas's The Glory of Southern Cooking, takes the latter approach. The result, writes Villas, is "a dish that's not just succulent but worthy of the most sophisticated tables". Villas also notes that tomatoes and okra, from Central America and Africa respectively, "has to be one of the most unlikely marriages in Southern cooking".
- 4 slices bacon
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 1⁄2 lb. small firm okra, stemmed, washed, and cut into 3⁄4" rounds
- 4 ripe but firm large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 small fresh hot red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 tsp. salt
- Pinch of dried thyme
- Pinch of dried basil
- Cooked white rice
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large, heavy nonreactive skillet (not cast iron or aluminum), fry the bacon over moderate heat till crisp, drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside.
Pour off all but about 2 tbsp. of the fat from the skillet. Reheat over moderate heat; add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add the okra, tomatoes, red pepper, salt, thyme, basil, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the okra is just soft but not mushy, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Serve the okra and tomatoes over rice and top each serving with crumbled bacon.