It seems most people have a love-hate relationship with vegetables, but my love of eggplant started early with this fabulous side dish. While not the healthiest dish (it is fried), it’s quite tasty and a kid-friendly way to introduce these lovely vegetables. This isn’t something I make often, but I do love it as an occasional treat, and it’s a great alternative to french fries! You can follow the same technique for fried squash or zucchini, too…
This can also go gourmet… try layering thin eggplant chips with hummus and baba ghanoush for a lovely Eggplant Napoleon appetizer!
This isn’t so much a recipe as a technique, so read on…
(Step by Step photos below)
1. First off, slice your eggplant. Thinner slices will be crispier.
Most eggplant recipes say to lay your eggplant out and salt it first, to remove any bitterness. For this recipe, I’m not sure it matters (my mom says she never did it). You should probably go watch Alton Brown’s thing on eggplants and how to pick them out in the store to avoid bitterness (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRvchIUm-QI) (Did I mention I love Alton??!!) . So, either lay them out first on paper towels, and salt them, and let them sit, or just go right ahead from the slicing to the next step…
You’ll want to read ahead and get your next steps set up…
1. Prepare skillet: 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in your skillet is adequate. Medium heat. Let it get hot while you’re getting everything else prepared.
2. Set up Liquid. You need something to help your crunchy goodness adhere to, so you need a liquid. Milk, or even buttermilk, works well for this. Fill a bowl full of it.
3. Set up Coating… Cornmeal mix, plus a few shakes of salt and pepper works well for this. Get a plastic bag (a great reuse for a bread bag, just use a fresh large ziplock bag), and put about a cup of cornmeal in it (you can also try 1/2 cornmeal mix, 1/2 flour for a different consistency). Shake in a few shakes of pepper (and salt, if you didn’t pre-salt).
4. Time to Coat: Drop a few pieces of eggplant into your liquid. Remove each individually (or a couple at a time) and drop into your bag. Shake bag to coat. Remove from bag and set aside. Repeat until all the eggplant is coated.
5. Test oil: Drop a tiny piece of your coating mixture or a small piece of coated eggplant into the oil… it should rise to the top and be sizzle-ly.
6. If it looks good, drop your first piece of eggplant in to be sure. If it sinks a bit and just bubbles a bit, it’s not hot enough—wait a minute. It should rise to the top and the coating should brown nicely within a few minutes.. When it’s brown on one side, flip and let cook for another minute or so on the other side, until golden brown and delicious (told ya I was an Alton fan). Thinner slices cook quicker. If you’ve never done this before, it may take some trial and error. That’s OK! That’s how we learn! Just take your time and do a few pieces at a time if your not sure. If you know what you’re doing, just evenly fill the whole pan as instructed above. Don’t overcrowd… you’ll probably do multiple batches.
7. While it’s browning, prepare a plate with 2 layers of paper towel, and a wire cookie rack on top. Take up the eggplant rounds, using tongs, onto the rack to let any excess grease drain off.
(Click to see larger, or as slideshow)
If you do this right, they won’t be greasy — not that much grease gets absorbed into the food when done at the right temp. The only things that can really go wrong here is having the oil way too hot (smoking=burnt!) or not hot enough (greasy, not crispy result).
These are a great side dish… I must confess quite a few don’t make it to the table when I cook them, though!