Fried Eggplant Spears with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

Eggplant can be a little intimidating to cook with. Its spongy texture, waxy skin, and seeds can be a turn-off. It is also known to have a bitter flavor at times. Depending on how you prepare and cook it, though, it can be delicious. It is important to cure the eggplant briefly in salt. This removes the bitter flavor and draws out some of the moisture, making it easier to work with.

I came up with this recipe at a dinner party and was very happy with the result. We had a box of eggplants that needed to be used and a few guests that had never tried it. It is usually a safe bet to deep fry an unfamiliar food item. It was well received, including all the guests who had never had it. I used a three-part breading setup and used panko breadcrumbs for the final coating which made them turn out well. I served this with a roasted red pepper aioli which is super easy to make.

 

2 large eggplants

4 eggs

2 cups of flour

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

2 tbsps. finely chopped parsley

1 tbsp. finely chopped thyme

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

 

Aioli

1 cup mayonnaise

1 roasted red pepper

3-4 cloves roasted garlic

1 tsp chopped thyme

½ lemon

Salt and pepper

 

To begin, slice the eggplants into 1x1x3 inch spears. I like to separate the neck section from the bottom to make a more consistent set of fries. It’s important to cut them a little bigger so they don’t overcook. After they are cut, generously season with salt and leave to cure for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the three-part dipping station. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the mustard. In a shallow dish, mix flour with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In another shallow dish, mix panko breadcrumbs with thyme and parsley.

This is a good time to prepare the aioli as well. Roast the pepper by putting it directly over the flame of a burner or by broiling it in the oven. Peel and seed the pepper after roasting. Roast the garlic by peeling the cloves and roasting them in a pan with olive oil. That oil can be added to the aioli. In a blender, mix the ingredients and blend until smooth.

After the eggplant has cured, rinse them well to remove the excess salt and pat dry. To bread them, coat with the egg mixture first, dredge in the flour, back into the egg mixture, and then into the panko. In a deep sided pan, heat oil to around 365 to 375 F. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer throughout the process. Cook the eggplant until they are golden brown, season with salt immediately after they come out of the oil. Serve with the aioli and enjoy!

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