Today I’m starting a new series of posts called Kitchen Experiments. It’s a new category rather more than a new series but I hope to continue the experiments a few times a month, so we’ll see. Anywho, tonight’s dinner included one thing I saw on TV, one thing I saw at the store while shopping for the meals ingredients, and the other was more or less a happy surprise.
Lets start with the TV ingredient. Out of all the TV I watch, I’d estimate 65-70% pertains to food, most notably Good Eats, Iron Chef, Chopped, No Reservations, Bizarre Foods, and Lidia’s Italy. I’ve learned most of the “formal” things I know thanks to shows like these, for instance how to make a dark rue, what ratio of salt and water for a brine, how to pronounce all the silly French culinary terms, etc…Well, recently Bravo (lame, I know, but bare with me) aired a show called Chef Academy with chef Jean-Christophe Novelli as the instructor of a group of delinquents learning the basics of fine cuisine. There were some good tricks to be learnt but one of the more interesting was Novelli’s technique for cooking small eggplant. I hadn’t thought of it until I stopped by Whole Foods and found these gorgeous little Italian eggplants from Cali. The technique popped into my head so I thought I’d give them a try, here’s how to do it:
2-4 Small Eggplant
A little oil, A little Balsamic, S & P
Short ingredient list, this righteous side dish will cost you about $1.50 and wow the F- out of your guests.
Start by cutting the eggplant in half length wise. Using a pairing knife, cut diagonal lines in the flesh about 1/4″ apart one way, then go back the opposite way creating a diamond pattern. Don’t cut all the way thru to the skin, just deep enough for the flesh to separate a bit. Bring a heavy pan to med-high heat. Drizzle each half with a tiny bit of oil and liberally salt. Place the halves flesh-side down on the hot pan and leave alone until you can smell the caramelly browned flesh wafting thru the kitchen (or just check that they’re nicely browned), about 5-8 minutes. Turn the eggplant over, drizzle each with a little balsamic vinegar, a little more salt, and place in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until soft to the touch. The end result looks like it will be crunchy, which it is, but only on the very top. The rest of the meat is like “butta”, sweet and creamy, not at all what I was expecting but a great contorni. I’m using this roasted eggplant flesh as a ravioli stuffing soon.
Next is the dish I saw while shopping. I snapped the picture above right before I turned into Whole Foods, looks almost like some wild cloud phenomenon is about to unleash hell over the store. But that’s neither here nor there. As I was sampling all of the cheeses and free fruit samples I walked past the buffet and saw what looked like fried gnocchi. Instead, they were roasted chickpeas, why haven’t I ever thought of that? Anyways, I tried to replicate the recipe and found a new way to enjoy one of my favorite starches:
Roasted Chickpeas with Sage
4-5 Sage Leaves
1 Can Chick Peas, Rinsed and Drained (or homemade would be even better)
Olive Oil, Peperoncino, Salt
This is pretty simple actually. Place the chickpeas, sage, and enough oil to cover the beans in a small baking dish. Add Salt and Peperoncino to taste and pop in a 425 degree oven for an hour or less. The beans when done should be lightly golden, crunchy on the outside, milky on the inside. Killer dish, glad I ganked it.
Last is the happy surprise. There’s a chicken thigh dish I make during the summer where I chop up fresh breadcrumbs with lots of parsley, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil and smother the chicken in the mix and grill. Well tonight I had some stale bread and decided to use the food processor to make some similar parsley breadcrumbs. The result, due to my liberal amount of parsley, was an ultra-violent green breadcrumb that looked like some kind of shit from space (in a good way). I bought some fresh flounder, dredged it in the kryptonite-like breadcrumbs and fried it up. The result: a crazy looking piece of fish, borderline molecular-gastronomy crap. Regardless of how it looked, however, it tasted like a perfectly fried fish cutlet with a pop from the parsley. Squeeze some lemon juice all over it and you’ve got an Italian classic – Fried Flounder Cutlet.
Crazy Flounder Cutlets
1lb Flounder Fillet, Cut into smaller portions
2-3 Slices of Stale Bread
1/2 Bunch of Italian Parsley, Stalks are fine too
Using a food processor, chop up the bread and parsley together into a fine, bright green breadcrumb. Be sure to season the breadcrumbs with Salt and Pepper to taste. Dredge each piece of fish in the breadcrumbs, then into egg, and then back into the breadcrumb to form a thick breading. Pan-fry the fish in a 1/4″ of canola oil on all sides until golden brown and cooked thru.
Put everything together and it was a meal full of firsts. The flavors melded together to create a dish of earthy flavors, contrasting textures, and interesting new techniques. If you’re in the mood to freak someone out, make the fish, otherwise regular breadcrumbs with just chopped up parsley is much more appealing. The Eggplant and Chickpeas, I’m making them again this weekend, especially the chickpeas which I’ll roast until really crunchy and brown for a peanut-like snack. Is that your brain on the floor, because I think I just blew your mind!