May 14, 2008
I wouldn’t call myself a vegetarian, and neither would most vegetarians. But, in the name of local eating (see The 100-Mile Diet), I haven’t eaten any poultry or red meat for about three months. I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Yeah, shut up. I still eat fish, because that ecological disaster’s a horse of a different color. (I enjoy mixing metaphors, e.g., “I wouldn’t touch that one with a ton of bricks.”)
But to hell with all that. I have adjusted to my semi-vegetarianism (there has to be a better word for that.) with what I see as some level of aplomb. It only took a couple weeks before I got past that first New Vegetarian realization: “Good God! Everything is food.” At first I was going, “Nope. Can’t eat that, there’s meat in that. Can’t do that, that takes meat.”
But the world of plants is so lovely and expansive. Everything we make from vegetables need not be pale imitations of the meatly world. I am pretty sure that the Meatworld is what you call the real-life portion of a two-pronged cyperpunk society. Irrelevant. Where was I? Oh yes. Pale imitations of meatworld, and avoiding such.
Well, put that notion aside for the following experiment: eggplant schnitzel.
No, I’m not a hypocrite; I just play one on TV.
Food is food is food. At least it’s not veggie burgers (and if I have another one of those [phase one of David Learns to Forsake Meat – be glad you missed that], it’ll be too soon.)
It was my mother’s idea, if that’s any kind of cop-out. She’d gotten those skinny Chinese eggplants from the Garden Fresh and said “This should work with these, because they’ve got thinner skins.” I will eventually try this recipe with regular eggplant, and I’ll keep you posted on that front.
My friend J. associates me very strongly with eggplant. It seems every time I’ve cooked in her apartment, I’ve made something, somehow, that involved eggplant. I figure I’ll do the french roman à clef thing and only refer to people by their initials. It makes me feel important and mysterious.
1. A note on cutting eggplant:
Humility is key.
A cookbook from my formative years – Clueless In The Kitchen: A Cookbook for Teens by Evelyn Raab – declared the Eggplant to be mysterious and inscrutable (perhaps this is why, wishing to be like the Eggplant, I refer to my friends only by their initials.), and not to be trifled with. But just remember to be humble in its presence, and don’t bother with using your big ol’ santoku, as I have done. This is hubris.
When you have a really, really big hammer, every problem looks like a railroad spike. Nobody’s gonna make fun of you if you use a small, serrated knife. It worked a lot better on my eggplant, because the skin was so glossy.
So slice your eggplant into quarter-inch slices, as shown. I’m going to try this again by cutting them into different, lengthwise configurations. Or you try it, and get back to me.
2. Get two plates and a bowl out. It’s DREDGIN’ TIME. I here imagine Ben Grimm (The Thing from The Fantastic Four), wearing an apron and waving a whisk.
So. Plate 1 = flour! Bowl = 1 egg, beaten, with a little water to let it out a little. Plate 2 = bread crumbs. Do the Alton Brown thing and designate one hand to be the Dry Hand and one hand to be the Wet Hand. The picture lies. my right hand was the Wet Hand. What I mean by this is that one hand should deal with the flour and the bread crumbs, and the other should deal with the egg. Otherwise you’ll just batter your hands and build up layer upon later of delicious that you’re never gonna eat.
A light dusting of flour, a quick eggy bath, and then it is to the breadcrumbs with our little slices of eggplant. Don’t feel bad for them. They quite enjoy it. See?
I couldn’t help it. Sorry.
1. The Frying
Is everything ready?
Okay, good. Heat some vegetable oil in your favorite frying vessel (I like frying pans. Do whatever you want. I bet this’d work in a wok, too. I’m not picky.) Then place your little slices in there and GET TO COOKIN’.
I wanna say about 2 minutes on each side. maybe less. The key is getting them golden-brown and delicious on the outside – they’ll likely be nice and tender within.
2. The Eating.
Drain, serve, eat immediately.
But the party isn’t over. Oh, no. PREPARE YOURSELF for the second half of the night.
Yep. Part two: forthcoming. You thought it couldn’t get crazier?
You were wrong.