Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Eggplant Croquettes

I have a new secret cooking boyfriend, Yotam Ottolenghi.  I own his cookbook, Jerusalem, and recently decided to check out his book, Plenty, from our public library.  I looked through the entire cookbook twice before I noticed it was missing meat.  Two times until I finally realized this cookbook was vegetarian.  

That's my definition of a fabulous vegetarian cookbook--you don't miss the meat.  There aren't a lot of fake meat products (that have been processed like crazy).  In fact, there are zero fake meat products and limited tofu and soybean recipes.  Fabulous!  In my opinion, it is up there with the Moosewood cookbooks (which are my absolute favorite vegetarian cookbooks).  This cookbook is going on my Christmas wish list--maybe the dog will get this one for me.  Until then, I need to share a few recipes here so I have them in case the dog forgets what to get me.

Now that I have mastered frying, after many, many failed attempts, this recipe was relatively simple.  It is a time consuming recipe, but most of the time was letting eggplant drain (30 minutes) and chill (20-30  minutes).  Hands on time wasn't bad at all.  Everyone in my a family ate these, until.....until...M dissected the croquettes because I wouldn't tell her what was inside it and she discovered there was, horror of horrors, eggplant.  

The dipping sauce that accompanies the croquettes is a basic mayonnaise.  It is completely optional, however I would recommend serving a dipping sauce with this--a flavored mayonnaise, marinara, tartar sauce, or whatever your favorite sauce for breaded, fried foods are (the kids used ketchup).

This serves 6.

Eggplant Croquettes
adapted slightly from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

4 medium eggplants
2 medium russet potatoes, cooked, peeled, and smashed 
1 large egg, beaten
5 oz feta, crumbled
3 T grated Parmesan
1/2 t salt
black pepper
1 3/4 (or possibly more) c dried white breadcrumbs (or panko)

canola, safflower, or sunflower oil for frying

Optional Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1 small garlic clove, crushed (optional)
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1/4 t salt
1/4 c grapeseed or olive oil (the oil gives the mayo a lot of it's flavor)
1/4 c olive oil
2 T chopped tarragon (optional, again this gives a lot of the flavor though)

Roast the eggplants (I prefer on a hot grill, as if I was making baba ganoush.  Char all the sides until the eggplant is very soft).  Cool the eggplants slightly, until you can touch them, make a slit along each eggplant and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.  Leave the black skin behind.  If there are lot of seeds, you can also discard some of them (but try to avoid taking out a lot of flesh).  Place the flesh in the colander and discard the skin (and seeds if you removed some).  Let drain for 30 minutes or more to get rid of some of the liquid.

Place the eggplant flesh in a large bowl.  Add the smashed potatoes (not mashed with milk, just smashed up), egg, feta, Parmesan, salt and a dash of pepper.  Stir together with a fork.  Add half the bread crumbs and stir.  The mixture should be solid enough to hold its shape, but it will still be very sticky.  If you need to, add more breadcrumbs until the mixture will hold together.

Remove the mixture from the bowl and divide it into four.  Roll each portion into a thick sausage about 1 inch in diameter.  Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs on the work surface and very gently roll the eggplant/potato mixture in them until  they are completely coated.  Carefully transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.  If the long snakes (sausages, I'm a mom) break apart when you are transferring them, that's ok.  Stick them back together the best you can.

While the croquettes refrigerate, make the mayonnaise.  In a small bowl (or a small food processor if you have one), place the egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice, and salt.  Using a handheld mixture fitted with a whisk (or you can whisk by hand), whisk the mixture on high speed.  While you whisk, slowly add the oils, one after another, in a slow, steady stream.  When the mixture resembles mayo (thick and creamy), fold in the tarragon.  Store in fridge.

Cut each cooled snake into 2 1/4" barrel-shaped pieces.  Pour enough frying oil--I use canola or safflower--into a heavy skillet (I use my black cast iron skillet) to come up about 3/4 inches on the sides.  Heat up the oil over medium high heat (to around 350 degrees.  I find the secret to successful frying is a frying/candy thermometer, which is very different than a meat thermometer because it goes much hotter).  Fry the croquettes in small batches for about 3 minutes, turning them to color them evenly.  Transfer to the paper towels to drain. 

Serve hot with a dipping sauce.

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