- Oil for frying
Adapted from fxcuisine.com
Peeling & Slicing the Eggplant
Use black-skinned eggplants for best taste. The skin is left on as it becomes very tasty when fried, but not so much with violet and white eggplants.
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
Many times I tried to salt aubergines before frying them, to draw out the bitter waters as Italian cookbooks have it. And everytime I had to throw them because they tasted like salted cod. But Mrs Consoli explains this is an essential step, I think mostly because dryer aubergine slices will soak up less oil by osmosis. Here is how to do it:
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
Now for the frying. You'd think that this being Italian cuisine an Italian home, they would use olive oil, right? Wrong. Olive oil does not withstand high temperature as well as other, less romantic oils. Professional chefs use either clarified butter or, like Mrs Consoli, grapeseed oil for high temperature frying. If you think that's not healthy, I'm not sure what business you have reading an article about deep-fried food, but know that Extra Virgin Olive Oil's health benefits disappear quick as the oil is heated up to its smoking point. Some grapeseed oils can withstand almost 400F°/200°C before starting to smoke, and they are clearly the right choice for this.
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:
•Use black-skinned eggplants for better taste
•Leave the skin on
•Cut it lengthwise
•Sprinkle with salt to draw the moisture out
•Wash and strain like a towel each slice one after the other
•Use heat-tolerant oil for frying, NOT olive oil
•Use a pile of paper towels to remove excess frying oil from the fried eggplant slices