This has happened to me twice at ABC Kitchen in Manhattan. First it was chef Dan Kluger’s carrots. Those fabulously sweet-roasted cumin-y cayenne-spiked spears offset by sour cream, avocado, and oil-drenched and toasted bread cubes (calling them croutons seems like an insult). They reversed my carrot prejudice. I used to abhor carrots. Now, I crave Kluger’s.
Then, the chef did it to me again. With okra. He roasts it in a wood oven. Until it’s crisp and smoky. No slime, no slippery slithery slickness.
I saw a gorgeous, green heap of okra on Saturday at the Fort Greene farmers market. They were perfectly pointed, their hairy ridges all bristly. Shoppers paused, gave it a glare, thought for a moment, then thought better of it and then moved on. I stood by the wood crate and filled a bag.
A neighbor stopped by, he raised an eyebrow. “Okra?” he said instead of hello.
“Yes,” I responded with confidence. “Okra. I’m roasting it. It’s going to be killer.”
“You know it’s the last weekend for heirloom tomatoes,” he added. Hurricane Irene wiped out most nearby crops. Yes, I knew. But for right now, my attention was on the okra.
Roasted with bacon, shallots, olive oil, and salt, okra becomes crisp, caramelized, and incredibly addictive. They’re like potato chips but better, the ultimate bar snack, the very definition of finger-licking good.
At dinner last night, we fought over the last crisp bits at the kitchen table, my six-year-old rolling his eyes in pleasure, the two-year-old stealing the bacon bits from the bottom of the platter. My husband and I kidnapped scraps from each others plates. Please, rebel. Pass up the heirloom tomatoes, the buxom bell peppers, the taut eggplants, the easy leafy greens. Go for the okra, prejudice be damned.
Crispy Okra, Bacon, and Caramelized Shallots
Serves 4 (or 2 if you’re really greedy)
4 shallots (or 1 red onion), halved and thickly sliced into wedges
1 1/4 pounds okra, topped and halved lengthwise
3 slices bacon, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the shallots, okra, and bacon on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss with the salt. Roast until the okra is super crisp and browned, 25 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.