I’ve said it before, my husband can cook. I mean. He. Can. Cook. I eagerly anticipate my annual birthday dinner of his specialty Extra Crispy Fried Chicken Fingers all year long. This year, I walked into the house after picking up our CSA on my birthday, and said, “Eh… there are two giant eggplant in our share this week and I don’t even know. You want me to stew ’em or something later?” He said, “We have the oil going! Let’s fry ’em!”
He already had the dredging station set up for our chicken (seasoned flour in a bowl next to milk and egg in another bowl) so he peeled the eggplant, cut it into 1 1/2 inch pieces, tossed them in the flour, dunked them in the milk and egg mixture, back into the seasoned flour, and then into the oil. Eight-ish minutes later, the cubes were rendered golden, crispy, and utterly perfect.
And here’s a crucial piece of information. Usually, I dislike eggplant. I admit it. Eggplant doesn’t ding my chimes, usually. It’s a textural thing. However, this Chicken Fried Eggplant from my darling Evil Genius is fan-flippin’-tastic. I can’t get enough of it. This means I won’t flinch every time I walk into my CSA and see “3 pounds of eggplant” on the grab list. This means I have a way I actually CRAVE eggplant. This man of mine is good, people. He’s good.
- The Evil Genius does not salt/soak/whatever the eggplant. In this application, the only fussing you need to do is to peel it and cut it.
- We use a deep-fryer. If you don’t have one, simply add 2 inches of oil to a high-sided, heavy-bottomed pan and use a thermometer to keep your oil at 350°F.
- Before you even START THINKING about anything else, have all of your ingredients prepared and laid out in order of use. In other words, have your eggplants peeled and cut down to bite size. Have your pan of seasoned flour next to it. Place your pan of egg and milk next to that. Have a clean plate next to the egg and milk to hold your breaded eggplant pieces. Line a plate or pan with paper towels and put it on the other side of the fryer or the pan. Once all that is ready to go, fire up your fryer/oil, and start dredging.
- Speaking of dredging, that’s culinary-speak for adding Ingredient A to Dry Ingredient B then to Wet Ingredient C then back to Dry Ingredient B. There’s solid reasoning behind the Dry-Wet-Dry progression. The first plunk into dry ingredients creates a uniform surface to which the wet sticks. The wet holds the dry on the outside so you can get that serious crunch when you fry it. Your hands? They’re going to get messy, but that’s okay. It gives you a little club-handed layer of protection against the hot oil when you lower whatever it is you’re frying into hot oil. You can wash them when you’re done!
- The Evil Genius recommends serving these with Homemade Ranch Dressing and/or Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce.
Chicken Fried Eggplant
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
- 6-8 cups canola or peanut oil for frying
- 1 egg
- 1 cup buttermilk or milk for best flavor
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning or generic version
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon MSG strictly optional. If you have an aversion or sensitivity to this, please omit it!
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder preferably granulated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder preferably granulated onion
- additional salt for sprinkling
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, steak seasoning, salt, pepper, MSG, paprika, garlic and onion powder with a fork or whisk. Divide the seasoned flour between two pie plates or cake pans. Line a pan or cooling rack with paper towels or newspapers. Set flour and towel lined pan aside.
Pour oil into a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pan (or fryolator, fry-daddy or other frying apparatus) over medium to medium-high heat. Remember this rule of thumb when deep-frying on your stove-top: "Never fill your pan more than halfway full of oil." Remember that liquids rise higher as they boil and that you'll also raise the level of the oil each time you drop something else into it ('Law of Displacement' if you're physics-minded...) And since this is The Evil Genius's cooking show today, I'll quote him, "You can't argue with physics. It is or it isn't." If you have a thermometer, you're shooting for 350°F. If you don't have a thermometer, don't sweat it. Just heat it until the tip of one of the breaded eggplant pieces dipped into the oil results in many, many enthusiastic bubbles flying up around the edges of the eggplant.
Add egg and buttermilk to a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Set aside with the flour.
Now, let's prepare to fry. Lay out your ingredients -assuming you have a counter near your stove and your oil is ready to go- like this starting closest to the stove: one bowl with flour, bowl with buttermilk/egg mixture, other bowl of flour, cutting board with chicken on it. Decide on which hand you're going to use. Use your hand and work with one piece of eggplant at a time. Drag it through the flour so it is evenly coated and shake the extra off. Dredge (drag through) the floured piece of eggplant in the egg/buttermilk mixture, shake off the excess. Dredge the gooey piece of eggplant through the last bowl of flour, making sure it is well coated and gently shake off the excess. Lay the coated eggplant on the clean plate. Repeat and cover as much eggplant as you can fit into the hot oil in the pan without crowding it.
Then carefully, using your gooey-gross right hand gently slide that fully-coated eggplant into the oil. Whatever your impulse may be, DO NOT THROW THE EGGPLANT IN THE OIL. That is how burns happen. Trust me. You're much better off and much safer gently allowing the eggplant to slide from your hands near the surface of the oil. And this is where using your one hand to do all that dredging and dipping and dunking pays off. You have so much goo on your hands that no oil is going to penetrate to your skin in the short amount of time it takes you to carefully place a piece of eggplant in the oil.
Stir the eggplant gently with tongs and allow to cook for between 8-15 minutes, depending on how thick your chicken strips were. If it is browning too quickly, lower the heat a bit.
Transfer hot eggplant to the towel lined pan and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before eating. You really don't want to bite into it right away unless you'd like to rid yourself of the skin inside your mouth. These little beauties are screaming hot!
Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
Sprinkle the eggplant with salt before serving.
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