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 From Cupcakes, With Love April 26, 2012 at 8:37 am

    these look delicious 🙂

    From Cupcakes, With Love x

  • Reply Leanne@Around the Table April 26, 2012 at 8:16 am

    These look delicious! I made avocado fries and I thought those were cool, but these may be even better!

  • Reply Lyndsey April 26, 2012 at 7:21 am

    My mom made fried eggplant or zucchini like this, but in silver dollar slices, when I was a kid. She’d serve them as a side with some ranch dressing for dipping. Most of the time though, I’d eat them off the paper toweled plate before she was done frying everything… I think I just drooled a little.

    Definitely making these soon.

    • Reply Sihaam May 15, 2012 at 11:58 am

      small fruit varieties of ttoeomas (Sun Gold does excellent in our weather, and they are delicious, tho it’s a huge plant, one per large pot), eggplant, and peppers will do well. As it gets very hot, try to shade them after 2 or 3 pm and water as soon as they get dry. Tomatoes usually don’t grow here after late June (it’s too hot and they die off) so plant them as soon as your weather permits, but the eggplant and peppers can go all summer. Yellow squash does well also, but it gets huge, so plant just one to a container. There is an excellent variety of Yellow Squash called Butterstick Hybrid Zucchini (it’s delicious and yellow). It’s good for containers because it grows upright and does not run like other squashes which can’t work in pots.

  • Reply dla seniora April 26, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Great recipe for fries. I never eat that before! Regards form Poland:)

  • Reply Villy @ For the love of Feeding April 26, 2012 at 3:54 am

    I was hating eggplant the first 10 years of my life. And then, for unknown reasons, I fell in love. I love it. (We also tend to use it a lot in Greece).
    This is an amazing idea!

  • Reply Mike @TheIronYou April 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    I’m definitely one of those that can’t stand frying…thanks for giving the option of baking. I have to try those asap!

  • Reply Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious April 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    I’m not much of an eggplant person but I will most definitely give this a try! 🙂

  • Reply Julia {The Roasted Root} April 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    For quite a while now I’ve been thinking up non-breadcrumb/wheat or white flour crustings for fries…glad to see cornmeal! I wonder if it would work with all cornmeal…? I love egg plant, crispy crunchy food, and the cornmeal batter sounds just perfect!

  • Reply Robin April 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Holy crap. I’m with you. Eggplant has always been on my sh**list. I may have enjoyed eggplant ONCE in Parmesan. SO- thank you for the tips. I think I’m going to risk it here and give these suckers a try. I may even get lucky and my kids might even like these. Excellent idea. Thank you!

  • Reply NicoleD April 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I just love how you turn great things into fries! Oh goodness, I can’t wait to tell my husband about this vegan restaurant. He would not be able to deal. As it is, he refuses to order a “grande” or “venti” from Starbucks. He’s just all, LARGE, please.

    • Reply Adrianna April 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      I’m a brat. I say small, medium or large, too.

  • Reply Miss K April 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Yum! what a great idea!

  • Reply Leisa April 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Wow, these look delicious!

    I totally know what you mean about the texture issue with eggplant–I have a bit of a love/hate (well, mostly hate) relationship with it too. I was vegan for years and I still could barely stomach the stuff!

    These, however, will be on my ‘try it soon’ short list 🙂

  • Reply Living The Sweet Life April 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Weird enough – – I LOVE eggplants!! As soon as I read the title of this post, I knew it would be delicious!! It’s pretty cool, that this can be baked instead of fried 🙂

  • Reply Dana B @ thebakingbooth April 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I wonder if you added a teaspoon of sugar to the coating mix that it would solve the pale problem when baking. Just a thought 🙂 Can’t believe I even read a post on eggplant. I’ll see if I can get the nerve up to try it. Maybe I can use it as a try new foods lesson for my youngest 🙂

  • Reply Anne P April 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    If you can find it, try white eggplant. I felt the same way you did until I tried it. It’s much milder than regular eggplant and isn’t bitter at all–even without the salt. The only problem is that it’s much more seasonal than regular eggplant and isn’t easy to find even when it’s in season, especially in the South.

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

      I need to try this!

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