Monday, August 24, 2015

Afraid of Eggplant No More

This is the best time of year for eggplant (aubergines) in Minnesota.

Several varieties of locally grown eggplant were available at my coop today, including usually hard-to-find Indian ("baby") eggplant and a long, skinny Asian variety. I was set on making Eggplant Parmigiana, so I chose the most common type: the large, dark ones.

Once upon a time the thought of cooking eggplant intimidated me. I never seemed to get it right, ending up with a greasy, unevenly textured dish.

Then I learned a method that has worked every time. The resulting dish is not greasy and is consistently tender with no tough bits. The secret is the initial preparation.

The key is to get rid of some of the water in eggplant, along with some of the more bitter flavors.

The usual advice is to slice the eggplant, place the slices on a paper towel or colander, then sprinkle the slices with salt. After half an hour, or so, wipe off the salt and water.

I've never achieved consistent results with this method.

However, this method works every time for me:
  1. Optionally, peel the eggplant. You will want to do this if you will be breading the eggplant.
  2. Slice the eggplant.
  3. Place a single layer of slices on a paper towel on a glass dish. There is no need to add salt.
  4. Place another paper towel on top of the slices.
  5. Microwave on full power for 7 minutes. Yes, I know this is hard to believe. Depending on the power of the oven, you might want to add 2 or 3 minutes: if the slices start turning dark, you are starting to go too far.
  6. Place the slices on a rack to dry further.
Eggplant slices drying on a rack after 10 minutes of microwaving.
The slices are then ready for breading and sautéing, or whatever cooking method awaits. The texture and flavor of the eggplant will be excellent in the final dish.

I don't have a recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana because it's basically an assembly operation.

Here's two eggplant recipes I enjoy that do not require the initial microwaving or salting step:

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