Green Tomatoes are Doing Their Own Thing

If you’re too impatient for ripe red tomatoes, that’s just fine with us, because green tomatoes have unique potential all their own. So, rather than looking at them as unripe and unready for harvest, CVI Chef Jamie Simpson says you should consider green tomatoes as a completely unique fruit altogether.

“It’s a whole different ingredient,” he said, “like how green peppers are different from red peppers.”

Texture and flavor profile are the distinguishing characteristics that differentiate green tomatoes from their red counterparts. Drier, more acidic and bitter, they are also more durable for applications such as frying and pickling. For making his delicate green tomato chips, Chef Jamie applies multiple techniques to a single green heirloom tomato, creating two full trays of crispy, delicate chips to top a summer tomato salad.

The first key is shaving the tomato paper thin, translucent enough for light to pass through the flesh like pale green stained glass. After a quick pickle with apple cider vinegar, the slices are ready to be dried in the oven until they resemble little wagon wheels. Dehydrated, yet pliable, the slices are fried in oil until crispy, then perfectly seasoned.

 

TCG:  Why are green tomatoes better for this recipe?

JS:       They have less moisture, so they are easier to slice super thin, and easier to dehydrate.

TC:      You sliced them on a legit deli-meat slicer. Isn’t that a little extra?

JS:       It’s the best way to get them thin enough.

TCG:  How are green tomatoes better for this from a flavor standpoint?

JS:       They have less sugar, so they add a different flavor. They’re more vegetal than fruity.

TCG:  You rejected a tomato that was a little pink inside. Why?

JS:       It’s already developed too much sugar.

TCG:      How should it look?

JS:           Very pale. More whitish.

TCG:      So you’re putting them in vinegar to pickle them. How long will that take?

JS:           Just a minute or two in the vacuum extractor. It forces the brine into the fruit. It puts a 24-hour pickle on them rapidly.

TCG:       Not everybody has a vacuum extractor just lying around.

JS:           You can let them sit overnight. And any vacuum sealer from any hardware store will work, so you’re not bound by a big expensive device.

TCG:      What happens after the pickle part?

JS:           Lay them out on a tray and dehydrate them in a dehydrator or in the oven.

TCG:      You used an oven. At what temperature?

JS:           150 to 180 degrees, until they’re dried but still a little pliable.

TCG:      Typically fried green tomatoes are breaded with flour or breadcrumbs before they’re fried. Will you be doing that?

JS:           No.

TCG:      What temperature is your frying oil?

JS:           230 degrees, which is low, but it’s necessary because of the sugar content. Otherwise they’ll burn. They’ll brown gradually and come out crispy.

TCG:      What’s your seasoning blend?

JS:           Kosher salt and some dried herbsmicro chive, celery, parsley and chervil.

TCG:      How are you dressing the dish?

JS:           With a whey vinaigrette.

TCG:      Why whey?

JS:           It adds an acidic element. It’s left over from making ricotta, then clarified. It has that flavor, like ricotta or mozzarella. Really mild. I like the idea of mixing in something that could relate to something else.

TCG:      Like tomatoes and mozzarella?

JS:           They go together naturally.

TCG:      This is quite a process for a simple chip. What’s the end game?

JS:           We use tomatoes raw, sliced, grilled, in soups and sauces, green tomato sandwiches. Chips are another layer of texture with the tomato. It’s just different, another way for the tomato to be.

(Tip: The chips can be made ahead and then re-crisped before serving.)