Fry Eggplants like a Sicilian MamaHome >> Experiences
Frying eggplant is one of the trickiest things in Italian cuisine. The damned things will just drink up any oil you throw at them, ending up immobilizing your guests in bed for weeks like a python who ate a dog and can't move for days. But an eggplant properly fried is a marvel of soft, delicate flesh in a tasty browned capsule. I've tried many ways to fry eggplants - in a non-stick saucepan with little oil, in the oven, by pressing them to extract any oil they soaked up. Everybody has some idea of how to do it, but when it comes to knowing how to fry an eggplant like a Sicilian mama, the buck stops with Eleonora Consoli, Mrs Consoli, from Viagrande on Mount Etna in Sicily, writes cookbooks for Sicilian readers, and she has her own food show on Sicilian TV. I managed to attend a private cooking class in her home near Mount Etna and asked her to show me how to fry an eggplant.
As you'll see, it is very simple to fry an eggplant correctly and obtain light, thoroughly cooked eggplants in a crispy exterior. Still, there is a thousand and one way to get it wrong. Just see how it's done:
Peeling & Slicing the Eggplant
Wash the eggplants, then cut the stem off as well as any damaged parts.
Slice the eggplant vertically. This is very important as crosswise slices would let the eggplant fibers soak up the oil. Start by cutting a skin slice and discard it...
... then proceed with further vertical slices until you reach the other end.
Salting, Washing & Straining the Eggplants
Rub each slice with salt on each side. Do not be afraid to use too much salt.
Leave the aubergine slices in a colander for 30 to 60 minutes. You'll see big drops of water form on the aubergines - that's eggplant juice drawn out by the salt through osmosis.
The problem is that this process very much salts the aubergine. Since the water goes from inside the slices and out, you'd think no salt would enter, but it does. Now you have to wash each slice under running water and rub it, squeeze, strain, then wash again. If you don't do this, you won't be able to eat your aubergines.
Frying the Eggplant
Heat at least 1liter/quart grapeseed oil in a deep frying pan. Bring the temperature to about 170°C/330°F. You can drop little pieces of eggplant or bread in the oil - when it starts bubbling fiercely, your bath is ready.
Rest eggplant slices one by one in the hot oil using pliers. DO NOT drop them in the hot oil or you'll finish the meal in the emergency ward. Just add as many slices as will fit in the pan's surface - you'll do the rest later.
Do not let the oil heat enough to start smoking, but do not let it drop down too much either.
Using kitchen pliers, check regularly the bottom side of the eggplant until they are nicely browned, then turn them upside down to cook the other side.
Remove the now cooked eggplant slices and lay them on abundant kitchen paper to remove as much oil as possible. Don't hesitate to carefully press with a quadruple layer of paper on top and press a little to extract more oil. Cover to keep warm and proceed like before with the remaining slices.
So to fry an eggplant like a Sicilian mama:
Eleonora Consoli [haylayawNAWnawrah KONsawlee]