Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Food Porn: Eggplant Overdrive

When I dropped off my elephant cookies, the customer (my day job boss) happened to have just harvested his eggplant crop, hoping to save them from the impending storm. He generously gave me three of them.

Beauties aren't they? I was very excited to take home my bounty. I thought they were gorgeous. For the first one, I decided on thinly sliced and breaded disks for a cheese-less eggplant Parmesan. I had whole wheat seasoned break crumbs and some diced tomatoes for a fresh sauce. Perfect comfort food to get anyone through a storm, right?

First things first. Slice them. Up. As you can see, that's my Baby on the cutting board; 12" W├╝sthof Classic Chef's Knife. She went through culinary school with me. Although not used as much since I got my Santoku, she's still a favorite of mine, no matter what. I love uniform, thin slices. It's fun getting into a good rhythm and going to town. What isn't there to love when it comes to this stuff? It's near perfection sprung out of the ground! I love eggplants. I wish I had the yard space to grow them.

Anyway, you cut them up like this, and then it goes to balsamic, olive oil and garlic bath. Eggplants are like sponges. If you fry them, like I'm going to do, they tend to soak up the oil and it's just hell on the diet. The breading and then the oil is just asking for trouble. By giving it a quick marinade in the balsamic, I'm tossing some flavor into the flesh, and I'm putting something else there so that the oil has less place to seep into. I also just love balsamic vinegar. I'd probably find a way to put it in everything if I could.

Next up is dredging and breading. I skip the flour part, and dunk my salted and peppered slices into a seasoned beaten egg mixture. What did I season it with? Italian seasoning blend; parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme. I also threw in some powdered garlic and onion for an extra little kick. Why not? The more seasoning you put into the levels of your dish, the less seasoning the final eater will every have to put on the meal when it gets to their plate. I get very offended when someone feels the need to salt and pepper their food. It pisses me off even more when they do it before they even taste it. That's just some bullshit, right there.

So, this may be where I went wrong. Perhaps a heavy salt hand in the egg or maybe the seasoned breadcrumbs, where I may have thrown in a few shakes too many. I'm not rally sure where my salt hand went nuts on me. But, inevitably it did. There were so many places this could have happened, but I'm sure it started here.

Look at the color on my sauce!!
So, after they were all breaded and coated and what have you, I took out a brand new pan and dropped in a few splashes of olive oil. VERY little oil. Beauteous, isn't it? =) Traditionally, these babies are deep fried, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. Even with the marinade, it's still too easy for eggplant to sponge up the extra oil.
Veggie pasta!

After all my eggplant frying is done, I saute some garlic in olive oil, throw in a can of diced tomatoes, a can of crushed tomatoes, a handful of herbs and I boil all that down into a lovely sauce. I may have over-salted at this point, as well, but it all tasted good when I first took a nibble.

I don't really know why I stopped taking pictures at this point. I thought I had some nice shots of my layered and sauced masterpiece, but there is nothing of the sort of my camera. Poop. =(

I'll be honest. Although it was very tasty and the eggplant was just perfect, it was MUCH TOO SALTY. Yes, I went nuts with the salt. I have no idea where I overdid it, but it was too salty, and after everyone took a polite piece at dinner, no one took seconds.

Just another classic example that you can never take any step for granted when cooking. I ruined this multi-stepped dish by having a generous hand with the sodium. I'll just have to be more careful in the future.

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