People call me crazy for hating eggplant as much as I do. I can’t blame them, really. With a complete lack of flavor and texture, I’m surprised anyone out there hates it!
I’ve had eggplant cooked dozens of ways, all terrible. In Indian food it taste like mushy tofu. In Ragouts or stews, it tastes like mushy paper towels. Whether it’s grilled, roasted, or pureed, it’s disgusting.
Oh man. Now we’re talking.
I ordered a farm box from my grocery delivery service, because that’s step two in “becoming an annoying millennial-hippie”. [Step one? Stop wearing deodorant.]. A “farm box” is fancy term for a box of whatever produce the local farms have just harvested. The produce is generally good—the greens are more flavorful than your typical grocery store greens. The artisan cheese is generally terrible. Last week I had a “Monterey Jack” that tasted like weed smells, if that makes any sense.
This week’s box featured an eggplant. Normally I would have thrown it right out the window. But I wouldn’t wish Death By Eggplant upon my worst enemy, and I was having a hippie dippie moment, so I thought, “let’s see if there’s a way to use this disgusting vegetable that makes it edible.”
Never being one to backdown from a self-imposed challenge, I looked for inspiration—which meant I asked Wiff “any ideas for eggplant recipes that don’t suck?”
She found one from José Andrés that looked simple enough: breaded and fried. I changed it for my tastes and processes, and the final product made me hate eggplant a little less.
And love fried food a lot more.
Seriously, it’s amazing. Go make it.
1 eggplant, 1/4” slices on the bias [fancy term for “at an angle”]
Kosher salt, as needed
Whole milk, as needed, about 2 cups
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or Canola Oil), as needed, about 4 cups
Flour, as needed, about 1 cup
Sea salt, as needed
Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Place another similarly sized baking sheet on top of the salted slices and weigh it down with a pan. Let sit for an hour or two. The longer you let it sit, the more flavorless water you draw out from the eggplant.
Place the eggplant slices in a bowl and cover with milk. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least a few hours.
Put the flour into a bowl or plate.
Heat an inch of oil to 350˚F in pan with high enough sides so that, in case the oil pops and spits, it won’t make a mess or worse, burn you. I use a Le Creuset Dutch Oven [one of the first items I’d grab if my home were on fire, perhaps from some errant oil that ignited].
Working one eggplant slice a time, remove from the milk—shaking off excess liquid—and dredge in the flour. Flip it over a few times to ensure there are no bare spots. Remove from the flour and carefully place into the hot oil, taking special care not to burn your face off. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the coating has browned. Use tongs or a spider to remove the eggplant slices from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Immediately sprinkle sea salt.
Repeat with the remaining slices, adding only a few slices at a time.
NOTE: When you shallow fry like this, take special care to keep the temperature of the oil hot enough. When you add food to hot oil, the temperature of the oil will drop. I suggest heating the oil to 360˚F or so so that it doesn’t drop below 350˚F when you add the eggplant.
This is part of a cookbook proposal that’s out on submission right now. If you’d like to see what a book proposal looks like, click here.