Episode 60 – “Berry from Another Planet”

Posted: May 10, 2016 in Season 5
Tags: , , , , , ,

The main star of the 60th episode of Good Eats was none other than eggplant. Eggplant, which is technically a berry, is a food that I have had limited experience with. My mom has an eggplant recipe that she still swears by, which was the only exposure I had to eggplant when I was young; I did not like it. Her version was sliced, breaded, cooked in butter, and coated with Parmesan cheese. A few years ago, I made a batch of Eggplant Parmesan for Ted and me; we did not care for it, opting for frozen pizza, or the like, instead. Still, I figured, if anyone could make me like eggplant, it likely would be Alton Brown.

Baba Ghannouj

First up in Alton’s eggplant repertoire was his take on Baba Ghannouj. For this recipe, you’ll need two eggplants.When selecting eggplants at the store, opt for ones that have a green stem and smooth skin, and that are heavy for their size. Larger eggplants tend to be more bitter than smaller ones. Also, when possible, choose male eggplants instead of females. Who knew there were male and female eggplants? Male eggplants have a small circle on their non-stemmed end, while females have a larger oval shape. Apparently, female eggplants have more seeds and are more bitter (insert bitter female joke here). Oh, and store eggplants on your kitchen counter for 1-2 days, or wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for longer storage. To make this recipe, prick your eggplants a few times with a fork and roast them on a grill over indirect heat for about a half hour, turning them every 7-8 minutes.

Wrap the hot eggplants in plastic wrap and let sit until cool enough to touch.

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Hot eggplants wrapped in plastic wrap.

When the eggplants have cooled, keep them in their plastic wrap and cut off their stem ends with kitchen scissors. Squeezing the eggplants like a toothpaste tube, squeeze their flesh into a strainer and discard the skins. Note:  this tip sounded cool when I watched the episode, but it did not work for me at all.

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Cut the stem end off of your eggplants and squeeze out their flesh. Didn’t work for me.

I wound up cutting my eggplants completely open with shears and scraped the flesh out with my hands. You will want to have about 2 C of eggplant for this recipe. Let the eggplant drain for about 30 minutes to get rid of its bitter liquid. I also pressed on the surface of my eggplant with paper towels to absorb any excess liquid.

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My eggplant flesh, draining.

Once your eggplant is ready, combine it in a food processor with 2 cloves of sliced garlic, 3/4 t salt, 5 T lemon juice, and 4 T tahini (Alton used twice as much tahini in the episode as in the online recipe).

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Eggplant combined with garlic, salt, tahini, and lemon juice.

Process the mixture until smooth, and add salt and pepper if needed. If your dip tastes too bitter, add some honey.

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Honey, salt, and pepper added to the mixture.

Finally, add 1/2 a sprig of parsley and pulse a few times.

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Fresh parsley added.

Serve the Baba Ghannouj with pita chips.

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My Baba Ghannouj with pita chips.

Honestly, neither Ted or I expected to care for this much, but we actually quite liked it. I did have to add a little bit of honey to my dip to cut the bitterness. Sadly, I think the reason I liked this was because it really did not taste like eggplant to me. It had a bright, lemony flavor and hummus-like texture, with only the faintest hint of bitterness. Hmmm… maybe this Alton guy can make me like eggplant afterall?

Eggplant Steaks

I bravely made Alton’s eggplant steaks for dinner one night last week. Afterall, when Alton cooked them on Good Eats they looked rather appetizing. He explained in the show that eggplant is like a sponge, so it is first necessary to get the eggplant to purge its liquid. To do this, slice your eggplant into 1/2″ slices, place the slices on a rack over a sheet pan, and sprinkle the slices liberally with Kosher salt.

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Eggplant slices, sprinkled with Kosher salt and left to purge their liquid.

After 15 minutes, flip the eggplant slices over and sprinkle them with more Kosher salt. Allow the eggplant to sit for 1-3 hours. There should be quite a lot of liquid on the sheet pan after the purging period.

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Eggplant after purging for 3 hours.

Thoroughly rinse the salt from your eggplant and wring each slice with your hand, as if wringing a sponge. Finally, wrap your slices in paper towels to dry further. Alton’s eggplant slices magically remained round after he wrung them out with his hand, while mine became ugly, oblong blobs; if you want your slices to be round, I’d suggest skipping the wringing step.

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My eggplant slices after being rinsed and wrung out.

Now that the eggplant has purged, it will no longer absorb liquid, but you can get liquid to stick to its surface. Next, combine with a whisk 1/2 C olive oil, 1/4 C Worcestershire sauce, 1 T cider vinegar, 1/4 C steak sauce, and 2 T honey.

Toss the eggplant slices in the sauce mixture until thoroughly coated, and place them on a rack over a sheet pan.

Broil your eggplant “steaks” for ~3 minutes/side or until they start to char around the edges.

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Eggplant “steaks” after broiling for ~3 minutes/side.

Finally, sprinkle your eggplant slices with shredded hard cheese of your choosing (I used Parmesan) and stick them back under the broiler until the cheese has melted.

I went into this recipe pretty optimistic. It turns out my optimism was unfounded. We really did not care for this recipe at all. The eggplant steaks had a texture that sort of reminded me of mushrooms, and their skin was slightly chewy. And, quite frankly, we just didn’t like the taste of this at all. Perhaps we just don’t like eggplant?

Eggplant Pasta

The third (and final, thank God) recipe of this episode was for eggplant pasta. For this recipe, you will need one medium-large eggplant and you will want to peel it before slicing. As in the recipe above for eggplant steaks, you will need to purge the liquid from your eggplant by slicing the eggplant, sprinkling both sides of the slices with Kosher salt, and allowing them to sit for 1-3 hours.

You will then want to rinse the slices, wring them out, and dry them in paper towels.

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Wrung out eggplant slices.

You can complete this purging process ahead of time and store your eggplant slices in the refrigerator for about a week. If you do that, this recipe comes together in no time. In addition to your eggplant, you will need olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, a small tomato, cream, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.

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Ingredients for Alton’s eggplant pasta: red pepper flakes, tomato, Parmesan, garlic, basil, eggplant, bread crumbs, olive oil, and cream.

You will first want to cut your eggplant slices into thin strips. Next, heat 1 T olive oil in a skillet. Once the oil is hot, add 1/4 t minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

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Garlic and red pepper flakes added to olive oil in skillet.

Add your eggplant to the skillet next, followed by 1 small tomato, seeded and diced.

Stir in 3 T heavy cream and 1 T basil chiffonade.

Finally, stir in 1-2 T shredded Parmesan cheese.

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Shredded Parmesan to top it off.

Serve the eggplant with breadcrumbs, as desired.

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Alton’s eggplant pasta, topped with breadcrumbs. Even the dog is indifferent about eggplant.

I had high hopes for this recipe, but we did not like this one at all. The texture and flavor of the eggplant were completely unappealing. After completing this episode of eggplant recipes, I think it is safe to say that we just do not like eggplant. I would be curious to know what a true eggplant lover would think of the recipes from this episode, as I do not feel that I can fairly judge them. It is safe to say that this has been my least favorite episode thus far. Thank goodness for the Baba Ghannouj recipe, or this entire episode would have been a dislike in our household! On the plus side, we now know not to order eggplant at a restaurant.

 

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