Friday, August 31, 2012

eggplant croquettes with garlic aioli.

There is something to be said about fried cheese.  Whether they are croquettes, mozzarella sticks, or fried raviolis, it seems that most everyone can’t resist gooey cheesy bites.  As a cheeseaholic, I am particularly drawn to all forms of fried cheese (and non fried cheese, I have never met a cheese I didn’t like), so when perusing my most recent cookbook addition Plenty and saw the recipe for eggplant croquettes with feta, I knew I had to make them (especially since they also involved eggplant!).  This is a healthy version of a croquette (or as healthy as fried cheese and vegetables can be) yet it still brings to mind bar food.  The chunks of smoky eggplant and creamy feta give a bit of texture to each bite and the parmesan gives the perfect amount of salty cheesiness.  The best part though is the garlic aioli.  It makes an unbelievable dipping sauce for the croquettes with the acidity of the aioli complementing the eggplant and feta perfectly.  I served mine with a green salad and it made for a lovely Sunday evening dinner. 

Eggplant Croquettes with Garlic Aioli
Recipe adapted from Plenty by Yottam Ottolenghi

I use one large eggplant instead of two medium ones, which was a big mistake (maybe not a big mistake but a mistake none the less).  When cooking these over the flame the big eggplant charred too fast on the outside before it could fully soften on the inside, so smaller eggplants are ideal.  Or you can just cook it in the oven and then it wouldn’t matter which size you use, they would just take longer to cook! Both instruction sets are below.

Serves  6 (or you can halve this as I did!)

4 medium sized eggplants
2 medium russet potatoes, cooked, peeled and smashed
1 large egg beaten
5 oz. feta, crumbled
¼ cup grated parmesan
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper
About 1 ¾ cups breadcrumbs
Oil for frying

Garlic Aioli

1 egg yolk
2 small garlic clove diced
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup grapeseed/vegetable oil
¼ cup olive oil

Burn the eggplants.  You can do this by cooking the eggplant over a medium flame on a gas stove, rotating the eggplant every few minutes until the eggplant is charred and collapsed.  This should take about 12 – 15 minutes. If you don’t have a gas oven you can cook the eggplant in the oven.  Stab the eggplant with a fork (make sure you stab all over) and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour until tender.  When the eggplants are cool, make a slit along each eggplant and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh; try to avoid the black skin.  Place eggplant in a colander and discard the skin.  Leave to drain for 30 minutes to get rid of some of the liquid.  Once drained you should have about 1 ¼ pounds of eggplant flesh. Chop the eggplant flesh up so you don't have super big chunks of eggplant!

Place the eggplant flesh in a large bowl.  Add the potatoes, egg, feta, parmesan, salt, and some pepper.  Bring everything togther gently with a fork; you want to keep the mix quite rough.  Add about half the breadcrumbs, just enough so the mix is sufficiently solid to hold its shape but is still a little sticky.  Place the remainder of the breadcrumbs on a large plate.

Take small handfuls of the eggplant mixture and roll it into little logs in your hands (about 1 inch by 3 inches), then roll egg log into the breadcrumbs and place them on a baking sheet.  Repeat this until you have rolled all the eggplant mixture into logs.  Refrigerate the logs for at least 20 minutes but you can refrigerate for up to a day. 
Fill a large pot with oil.  Heat the oil on medium heat.  When the oil is hot, place some of the croquettes in (I did 5 at a time), cooking until golden brown in color (should only take a could of minutes).  Place the cooked croquettes on a paper towel while you cook the rest.  When finished cooking serve with the garlic aioli!

For the aioli: Combine the egg yolk, garlic cloves, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of water, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk all the ingredients together.  Slowly (and I mean very slowly) drizzle in the olive oil while you whisk (I usually dribble in a little and then whisk).  After drizzling in the olive oil, drizzle in the other oil (once again slowly). The whole process should take about 5 minutes.  Once done you should have a slightly thinned mayo. 

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