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Best Fried Eggplant

by Nita Holleman

The story has been told of a man who loved eggplant so much, that he asked that his future bride's dowry be enough money to keep them in oil for cooking the beloved eggplant. Eggplant has an extreme affinity for grease and will absorb its weight in oil.

Male eggplants have less seed than the female eggplant. The female is the desirable kind to buy because the seed are quite bitter and difficult to remove! You may distinguish them if you know that the female eggplant has a rounder, smoother end opposite the stem. The blossom end which is the end opposite the stem, is usually somewhat indented on the female eggplant. Eggplant should still be shiny when purchased.

Eggplant has a tendency to be watery and should be salted down heavily and iced for about an hour before cooking to remove excess water. It will oxygenate and turn brown if held out more than even a few minutes before cooking. This problem can be alleviated if the eggplant is rubbed with lemon juice or lemon slices.

I had never been successful at frying eggplant and Hugh and I love it! We had eaten it cooked perfectly though at a restaurant we often ate in Jacksonville FL when we lived in Orange Park FL. So...

After we moved to Memphis TN from Orange Park, I got hungry for some of Mr. Fred Abood's, great "Green Derby" fried eggplant we enjoyed at his "Green Derby Restaurant" in Jacksonville FL. He served them as a 'side' with his aged beef steaks and an excellent green salad. His eggplant was never greasy and was always delicious! I wanted to know his secret, so I wrote to him from Memphis and he graciously sent me his recipe. Here it is, the way I do it, for your enjoyment and with thanks again to Mr. Fred Abood!

Best Fried Eggplant

1 young eggplant 1, peeled 2 and sliced thinly.

Preparation:

Place eggplant in a deep bowl. Salt it heavily with Iodized 3 table salt. Cover it with crushed or broken ice. Weight the salted and iced eggplant down in the bowl with something heavy on top to keep the eggplant submerged. The salt will act as an astringent and draw excess water from the eggplant. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Technique & Ingredients: Rinse and drain the soaked eggplant thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels. Rub slices with lemon 4 juice or lemon slices of desired. This helps prevent it from darkening.

In a pan or dish, mix 1/2 cup self-rising flour and 1/2 cup very finely crushed Saltine Crackers 5. Add 1/2 teaspoon powdered onion 6 and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, if desired. Add 1/2 teaspoon Iodized table salt and combine the mixture well. Set the mixture aside.

In a separate bowl, combine 2 eggs, slightly beaten, with about a tablespoon of cold water. Add 1/2 teaspoon Iodized table salt & 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to the eggs. You can omit the salt if desired, but the eggplant should not be salty from soaking in the salt.

The following ORDER of dipping is extremely IMPORTANT!

Dip each slice of eggplant into first the egg mixture, then the cracker mixture and then AGAIN in the egg mixture. Immediately place each slice as dipped into your hot frying pan prepared as follows.

Add about 1/4 inch of fresh cooking oil to a hot 'seasoned' black iron frying pan or heavy skillet. Using medium to medium high heat 7, fry prepared slices of eggplant until golden brown on each side, turning once with tongs 8. Be careful not to spatter the hot oil if the eggplant and egg batter is still cold!

Drain slices on paper towels when done. Don't stack the slices or they might go soggy on you. Eat immediately. Enjoy and never eat greasy eggplant again.

Note: This is the way we cook fried green tomatoes etc..

(1) Try to buy female, young Eggplant. They aren't as seedy. The seed makes it VERY bitter and are difficult to remove. Look for an indention on the end opposite the stem end and for a rounded, smooth end. Eggplant should be shiny on the outside, not dull as is often the case.

(2) The Green Derby Restaurant is unfortunately, now out of business. It was torn down to make way for the Blue Cross Blue Shield buildings near the Jacksonville FL Convention Complex.

(3) Nutritionists tell us that Iodized table salt is one of the few sources from which we can get needed Iodine in our diets. It will act as an astringent to the eggplant in this case and draw excess water from it.

(4) Rubbing the eggplant slices with lemon or lemon juice will prevent them from turning brown.

(5) If using cracker meal, be sure it is made from real crackers. The other kind is NOT good -- We usually make our own in a food chopper.

(6) Onion salt, garlic salt and celery salt are very high in salt content and low in the seasoning ingredient. Don't buy or use them.

(7) A good frying temperature would be about 360 degrees F. if you are using a thermometer or electric skillet. Otherwise, cook at medium or medium to high temperature.

(8) Using tongs to turn the eggplant slices prevents holes that let the grease inside the batter casing. Don't turn with a fork or sharp instrument. If you don't have tongs, use a spatula.

Nita Holleman
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