Cornmeal Crusted Eggplant Fries

Dinner, Sides, Snacks

I’ve hated eggplant since infancy, I swear, so the fact that you’re seeing little baked/fried matchsticks of eggplant right now is just crazy business. But here we are…just looking at eggplant.

The shift happened a few weeks ago when I went to my favorite vegan restaurant, which I sort of hate. I like/hate this restaurant. I sort of hate it and I sort of love it. This place is like no other restaurant I’ve ever been to. Each dish is an affirmation. Hold the phone, let me explain.

Every dish’s name is an affirmation. A vegan BLT isn’t just a vegan BLT, it’s actually a “I Am Humble.” So, in order for you to place your order you have to look at the server and say, “I would like the ‘I AM GORGEOUS'” and then the server looks at you and says, “YOU are gorgeous.”

This is when I vom. After you’re done ordering they tell you the philosophical question of the day. This is when (internally, of course!) I’m all like, Dude, listen, can you just give me my damn cashew cream, raw cold-ass vegan enchilada thing without talking to me about my inner spirituality and positivity or whatever, because seriously now I AM ANNOYED.

Okay so, why do I go back? Because it’s the best vegan food I’ve ever had. Ever! They served me an eggplant sandwich, which I ordered out of pure curiosity, knowing very well I hated the stuff. I figured if anybody could prepare an inherently gross vegetable in an awesome manner it was them. And I was soooo right.

Eggplant gets a bad rap. Mainly because eggplants can be bitter and slimy.

The eggplant I had at my love/hate restaurant was neither.

After a ton of eggplant research I found some solutions to both problems.

Slimy problem: People cook eggplant for too long. It should be cooked in the oven for about 20 minutes, max. It should be soft, but not, like, mushy and slimy.

Bitter problem: Salting the eggplant before and letting it stand for 25 minutes cures this. Salting the eggplant not only takes out the water and makes the eggplant firmer, but the salt actually suppresses the bitterness. (Here’s the NY Times bit I found that explains it further. Pretty interesting.)

Also, when buying eggplant, try to go for recently picked, young eggplants. Look for ones with fresh looking green tops and that are firm to the touch.

I prepared these eggplant two ways: fried and baked. Obviously the fried tasted better. I mean, that’s a no-brainer, but I know that most of the human population hates frying things, so I figured I’d try it both ways.

I’ve included directions for both below. Disclaimer: The baked fries won’t be totally golden brown. Most of the ones pictured are fried. There’s a paler one mixed in there–that’s the baked one. But no biggie! You choose. You’re the boss!

And since every type of fry needs a dipping sauce, I whipped up this super-quick and easy sorta spicy tomato sauce. I did this all while a batch of fries were baking.

Like vegetable fries? Me too. Here’s a few more that are on this blog:

Zucchini Fries

Portobello Fries

Polenta Fries (not really a vegetable, but you know, whatever.)

Baked Green Bean Fries

Avocado Fries

Cornmeal Crusted Eggplant Fries

Print this recipe!

Eggplant Fries:
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 large eggs, beaten

Quick Tomato Sauce:
1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves
1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt

To bake the fries:

1. Lay eggplant matchsticks, in a single layer, on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and let stand for 25 minutes. At the 25-minute mark, pat dry with paper towels.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, crushed red pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Crack two eggs in a small bowl and beat.

3. One by one, dip the eggplant sticks in the beaten eggs, and transfer to the bread crumb mixture, being sure to coat the eggplant thoroughly. Place the bread crumb covered eggplant on a baking sheet and bake for 20-23 minutes, flipping them at the 15 minute mark.

To fry:

1. In a cast iron skillet, add enough vegetable oil so it reaches about 3 inches up the sides. Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Gently transfer bread crumb coated eggplant to the hot oil and fry on each side for about a minute, or until golden brown. Using tongs, take them out of the oil and place on a bed of paper towels to drain.

For tomato sauce:

1. To make the tomato sauce, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet. Throw in diced onion, and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Place garlic atop onions and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the can of diced tomato and stir. Add the crushed red pepper and oregano. Next, salt to taste. Bring tomato mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until mixture is reduced. Carefully add to a blender and blend until sorta smooth, about 30 seconds. Serve with eggplant fries.

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70 Comments

Leave a Reply

  • Reply Liz April 25, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Hey Polenta is a veg it just is a bit processed, it is corn πŸ™‚

  • Reply russell April 25, 2012 at 11:27 am

    These look awesome! We had a really abundance garden when I was growing up, fried eggplant and fried okra are at the top of my list of fried veggies.

  • Reply Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen April 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Hahaha, that restaurant sounds hilariously obnoxious. At least you’re kind of over your eggplant hate – these look delicious!

  • Reply shirley April 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

    GREAT idea!

  • Reply breakfastatnatalies April 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Eggplant is not one of my favourite foods, but this looks great..I can definitely see how coating it in breadcrumbs would make it ten times better : )

  • Reply Lauren Bux April 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

    So yummy! I actually LOVE eggplant! Parm, Lasagna, Babaganoush….mmmmm.

  • Reply Lynna H. April 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

    ohh.. these sound interesting.. ahah. i do not like eggplants though. LOL. but this makes them look tasty!

  • Reply Heather (Heather's Dish) April 25, 2012 at 10:20 am

    i’ve never been a big eggplant fan but these sound AH-mazing!

  • Reply Margarita April 25, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Ok, I would hate that restaurant too… maybe you could just call in your order and pick it up or do they sound crazy when you order on the phone too? This eggplant dish looks really good, thanks for posting how to make it both ways.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Sometimes I just say, “I’ll take the BLT.” I’ve tried that and it works. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Katie April 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

    A friend of mine posted pictures on Facebook from that vegan restaurant! I didn’t know about them having to tell you you’re the things you order though. I don’t think I’d be able to handle that without blurting out some sort of snarky 15-year old comeback like “yeah, well your FACE is humble!”

    All the eggplant & zucchini fries I’ve ever ordered at restaurants are usually soggy =\ These look like they hold up well though! Also, any recipe that has crushed red pepper in both the food and the dip is fine. by. me.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      HAHAHAH! YES!

  • Reply Reformed Foodie April 25, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Haha! I love that eggplant dish at Cafe Gratitude – as a non vegan, I’ve got to agree, their food is BOMB. Great recipe – will give it a little Gluten Free make-under and give it a whirl:)

  • Reply Martha @ Weekend Doings April 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Never been a big fan of eggplant for the same reasons you described (slimy and bitter), it is good to know there is a “cure” for that. I will use you suggestions and give eggplant another try.

  • Reply Amy April 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I crave anything fried and in stick form (as odd as that statement sounds, it’s true). This looks like a good alternative to mozzarella sticks (my all, time favorite). Eggplant seems like the perfect meaty veggie to bread-and-dip.

    xoxo,
    mon amy

  • Reply Mary @ Bake Break April 25, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Hahaha I think I would react the exact same way you do in that kind of restaurant. I AM BEAUTIFUL! Yes, yes you are. Also, annoyed.

    These look good, but I do have that fear of slimy/bitter eggplant! I’ll give these a try and use your suggestions! Thanks!

  • Reply Elisse April 25, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Ahhh! I love/hate cafe gratitude too! Honestly I hate any restaurant with silly names for the food because I find it completely embarrassing to order. Last time I was there I tried to just order the “polenta puttanesca” and the server repeated the affirmation name back to me. Ugh. But seriously, it is the BEST vegan food. And I keep going back.

    http://www.thefrenchtoast.net

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