The Eggplant Chronicles II: cooking eggplant

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Like most Louisiana natives I love eggplant, and I have fervent opinions about how it should be prepared for cooking. For any application in which it is to be sautéed, I believe that it must be salted and drained first. This is not to get out bitterness, as some cookbooks say; a well-grown eggplant of a good variety doesn’t have bitterness. The disgorging process gives the eggplant a better texture, almost silky, and in my view is not optional.
For this dish, I cut an enormous yet still young Black King eggplant into thick meaty slices about half an inch thick. I salted them liberally on both sides in the morning, stuck them in a bag in the refrigerator, and in the evening laid them out in a single layer on half of a clean towel and pushed down hard on the slices with the other half of the towel, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Now sauté them in olive oil over medium-high heat, laying them out on a baking sheet as they finish cooking, and making sure to cook them until they can easily be penetrated with a fork. Meanwhile, decide what you want to put on them. I had some horta (cooked greens mixture) made according to the description in my amaranth post, liberally flavored with garlic, fennel fronds, and salt-cured olives, and decided to use that. Other possibilities include leftover cut-up meat or chicken with herbs, scrambled eggs highly seasoned with herbs, tomato sauce, or whatever. I mixed the horta with crumbled feta for a little pizazz. Top with cheese ( I used an artisanal cheese similar to Parmesan) and pop in a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes or so. Pull them out, top with pine nuts or your own favorite nuts and a lavish sprinkle of Maras pepper flakes or other good red pepper flakes, and put back in the oven for a minute or two. I added some roasted onion halves on the side. Serve. Eat.
This sort of dish screams for a good smooth red wine and has to be eaten with a carefree attitude. Laissez les bon temps roulez, after all.
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3 responses to this post.

  1. You have such class on your cooking, and with one of the hardest vegetables (technically fruits) to cook in my opinion.
    My Dad and much of his parentage are from Louisiana, and I’ve of course watched him make scampi, etoufee and it’s rue, but I’ve actually never heard much about eggplant. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember him saying they even grew that in their garden.
    Perhaps I’ll have to ask him about that. We’ll definitely have to try this way of cooking them.

    Reply

  2. Posted by wooddogs3 on August 1, 2015 at 7:26 am

    I bet he knows how to make eggplant delicious. When I was growing up eggplant was always peeled, but I usually leave the skin on because I like it.
    I am now vaguely remembering that there was a recipe around for eggplant pirogues in which small eggplant were carved to resemble the canoe-like pirogue, fried, and filled with seafood in a spicy cream sauce. I will have to see if I can remember how to do it. That might be a good use for the long Japanese eggplants that my grafted plant is pumping out.
    What part of Louisiana was your Dad’s family from?

    Reply

  3. Yes, I found I just haven’t payed enough attention. Love the idea of that pirogue eggplant. I’ve got a few lying around I might have to fix up that way.
    He moved to different places around Lousiana but was mostly around the southeast and Lake Pontetrain. Where were you?

    Reply

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