Do you love fried eggplant, but hate that it soaks up oil as it cooks? My husband grew up eating fried eggplant slices, it’s one of his favorite simple meals. For years I avoided cooking them due to the amount of oil needed for them to cook through; I replaced the fried slices with roasted eggplant pieces in many dishes (those roasted pieces are great by the way!). But there were times when he craved the fried taste and texture from his childhood. Trouble is, eggplant acts like a sponge in oil, even when the oil is the perfect temperature for frying. Well guess what? You CAN fry eggplant in oil without it turning soggy or greasy! The secret? Egg whites! Hey, it works for pie crust, doesn’t it??
I’ve run through the basic concept below. This method has consistently given me perfect, golden brown slices of fried eggplant while minimizing the amount of oil needed for a great result. The only thing you need to watch out for is splattering… wear an apron, and be aware that in the first 60 seconds of frying there may be a few little splatters here and there.
Those of you who love eggplant will adore this recipe. If you try it, let me know how it works for you! And one more tip… I love to serve the fresh, hot fried slices topped with tahini sauce and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley. Toasted pine nuts are a nice touch as well. Highly recommended!
P.S. I am on vacation right now and I forgot to upload the step-by-step photos for this post (whoops!), but it’s a pretty simple preparation. I’ve described the steps in detail below, and I’ll be sure to upload the step-by-step pics as soon as I get home!
- Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds. Place the rounds in a colander and sprinkle them with salt (sea salt, kosher salt, any kind of salt will work). Make sure each eggplant round has a thin sprinkling of salt on it. Let the slices sit for 20-30 minutes till beads of liquid form on the surface. This process helps to remove any bitterness that may be present in the eggplant. Note that if you're using smaller eggplant pieces here, like Japanese eggplant, they are very rarely bitter and likely will not need salting. I usually use a medium-sized eggplant in this preparation because I like the size of the slices it produces for frying.
- Rinse the eggplant pieces thoroughly to remove the salt. Pat dry and spread out on a cutting board. Sprinkle the eggplant slices lightly with salt (the salt from the colander will be mostly gone after rinsing; if you're salt sensitive, you can skip adding salt at this point and add to taste after frying). Sprinkle the slices lightly with black pepper (also optional, but recommended). Whisk the two egg whites in a small bowl for about 60 seconds. Brush the seasoned eggplant slices with a THIN layer of egg white, making sure the entire white surface of the slice is coated. Turn the slices and brush the other side with another thin layer of egg white, so all white surfaces of the slices are covered with egg white.
- Heat 1/4 inch of grapeseed oil in a nonstick skillet over medium till hot enough for frying. The ideal temperature for frying eggplant is about 365-375 degrees F. The best way to monitor the temperature is to use a deep fry or candy thermometer; or, you can drop a small piece of bread into the oil. If it takes 60 seconds to brown, the oil temperature is perfect for frying. Note: once you've mastered this process, you can heat up the oil while you're brushing the eggplant slices with egg white to save on time!
- Place 3 slices gently into the hot oil (do not cook more than 3-4 slices per batch, or the oil temperature will drop). Careful, it may splatter a bit, especially during the first minute or so of cooking. Let the slices fry for 2-3 minutes on each side till golden brown.
- Remove slices from the hot oil and drain on a drying rack or paper towel. Before I knew this tip, I would have to replenish the oil in the skillet every two batches or so. After learning this tip, there is enough oil for many more batches even after frying a whole eggplant. How fabulous is that??