Aioli & Eggplant “Fries”

I love a lot of things- my husband, my kids, my friends and extended family. I love basic food that tastes anything but basic. I love smearing dipping sauces on everything. I love foods that, while made of simple ingredients, are labour intensive. These foods tend to be beautiful in their finished form. Naturally, I LOVE aioli. I don’t use a food processor. I use elbow grease and my pestle and mortar. I use five ingredients, one of which is love. I put that shit on everything.

It popped into my head to make some of this heavenly nectar this evening. So, naturally, I did. Of course, I needed to make some excuse of a dish for eating my favorite thing ever. So, impatiently, I looked around my kitchen and spotted an eggplant, which, as is usually the case, I bought with healthy intentions but the poor thing would probably have met its rotten end in my trash can. I looked at the condemned purple veg and wished it was a potato. I know, I’m a spoiled, ungrateful American with plentiful food options. Then, lightbulbs. Make the eggplant a potato! Well, kind of. I cut that bad boy into little strips, breaded the strips and baked them up. I felt like I was being delusional. Pretending this strange, oft-frowned upon alien pod could be anything like the glorious, starchy potato. I crisped, salted, dipped and tasted. Hark! What magic is this?? What crispy, buttery yumminess dances upon my palette?? Oh, humble eggplant, how I’ve underestimated you! The purple mush bulb is one of those “love it or hate it” veggies. I love it…most days. It’s mushy on the inside and the skin is hard, trust me, I get why people hate it. But, when all breaded and crisp, the humble eggplant transcends its usual ick and becomes a guilt-free French fry worthy of all sorts of dipping action. It went beautifully with the aioli. Sonia (and fickle teen daughter) approved.

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Aioli, Old World Style
2 large cloves of garlic
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt or Kosher – around a teaspoon

1. Crush the garlic cloves with the salt in a mortar or deep bowl till smooth paste forms. If you don’t like a strong garlic flavor remove some now.

2. Add the egg yolk. Whisk. Use fresh, trusted eggs. This makes it safer and prettier- fresh eggs have a sunny colored yolk.

3. Using a whisk, add the oil to the egg and garlic mixture starting very slowly… very, very, very slowly. Keep whisking till all the oil is added.

4. Too thick? Add a few drops of warm water. You can also add juice from half a lemon for a lemon garlic aioli. This would be where you add flavors like chipotle or red pepper paste or tomato paste….etc.

5. Too thin? You screwed up. Try adding another yolk. If it doesn’t thicken up you may have added the oil too quickly. Time to cheat: add a couple tablespoons of mayo and vow to do it right next time.

Eggplant Oven Fries
1 eggplant, cut into 1/4″ thick ‘fries’
1/2 Cup breadcrumbs
1 egg beaten
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 Tbs milk or water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425*

2. In a smallish bowl, whisk egg and milk. Set aside.

3. Combine panko, breadcrumbs and Parmesan, salt and pepper in a shallow dish or on a plate. Set aside.

4. Put flour in a freezer storage bag.
Place the eggplant fries in the bag of flour, shake it like a polaroid picture.

5. One at a time, remove fries and dip them in the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

6. Place the eggplant slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake about 7-10 minutes or until golden.

Dip these babies in that French mayo you made (which, I know you made because why the hell else would you try to make eggplants into potatoes?).

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