Back when I was sporting my 19-year-old metabolism, fried vegetables were my go-to finger food. Almost every weekend, I’d prepare a batch of deep fried cauliflower, mushrooms or eggplant. I’d make them in much the same way I would panee (New Orleans lingo for battered and pan fried) veal or pork chops–soaked in an egg wash, rolled in Italian bread crumbs and submerged in hot oil. I could easily get an entire week’s worth of vegetable servings in one sitting with those crispy hunks of Deep South love. Now that I’m a little older and question whether I still have a metabolism, I don’t fry as often. But when I do, I always crave familiar flavors.
This week, I revisited my youth with a generous platter of Creole fried eggplant sticks. I made them the same way I always do but served them “Galatoire’s-style,” with powdered sugar and Tabasco. This bizarre combination is one of the most requested “hors d’oeuvres” at Galatoire’s, the grand dame of Creole-French restaurants in New Orleans. And with good reason. The powdered sugar, which was originally used to camouflage the bitterness of the eggplant, creates this French-toast-like exterior. That taste, together with the spicy tang of the Tabasco, leads you to a surprisingly creamy eggplant filling. It is a unique flavor that will have you reaching for seconds and thirds–that is, once you give it a try! If you’re hesitant about mixing all the flavors together, start by tasting a plain piece of eggplant followed by one dusted in powdered sugar and then another dipped in Tabasco and then dunked in powdered sugar. As much as I like the full-on flavor, I sometimes skip the Tabasco.
If you’re looking for a beer that will stir conversation almost as much as this eggplant dish, try the Exodus Porter by Sweetwater. Porters are great winter companions that get you all warm and fuzzy inside. This particular beer is full of dark roast coffee notes with slight hints of chocolate and caramel. I dig the way those flavors work with the sweet and savory fried eggplant sticks. Hope you all do too!
Until next week …
Creole Fried Eggplant Recipe
Canola oil for frying
1 large eggplant
1 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
Powdered sugar and Tabasco, for serving (optional)
In a large skillet or electric fryer, heat oil to 325 degrees. Cut off and discard ends of eggplant and peel with a vegetable peeler. Prepare eggplant sticks by first cutting lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices and again into 1/2-inch sticks. Leave at this length (usually 6-8 inches long) or cut again crosswise to create smaller (3-4 inch) sticks. Place flour in a shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper. In a separate shallow dish, combine egg, milk and Creole seasoning. Place bread crumbs in a third dish. Working in batches, dredge eggplant sticks in flour. Shake off excess and dip into egg wash, making sure to thoroughly coat each stick. Coat with bread crumbs. Carefully lower 3-4 eggplant sticks into hot oil. Fry, turning and gently pressing down with tongs, until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Drain on a wire rack or paper towels. Serve immediately with a dusting of powdered sugar or with separate bowls of powdered sugar and Tabasco for dipping. Serves 6-8.