Jackstraw Eggplant (Aubergine)

I have no clue why this recipe is called jackstraw.  It’s what I always heard it called while I was growing up.  Jackstraw is actually an old-fashioned name for a game of pick-up-sticks.  My mom never made this enough to please me when I was a kid, and I would always angle to be the one who got the last piece.

Another piece of trivia from my childhood is that I was a voracious reader, and read every kind of mythology I could get my hands on.   I can’t look at eggplant (also known as aubergine) without remembering the Turkish myth about a famous Turkish dish called Imam Bayildi.  It goes like this:

“A long time ago there lived a Turkish imam, well known for his appetite and love of good food. One day he surprised his friends by announcing his engagement to the beautiful young daughter of a rich olive oil merchant.  Part of her dowry was a consignment of the very finest olive oil. The wealthy merchant gave the groom twelve great jars of the prized oil, each one as big as a man.

Following the wedding, the young daughter quickly revealed her talents as a Turkish cook and every day prepared a special dish for her new food-loving husband. Stuffed aubergine in olive oil was his absolute favorite, and so he asked his wife to make it for him every night as the centrepiece of his dinner. Being a good wife, she did as she was told, and made the delicious dish for twelve days in a row. On the thirteenth day, however, when the imam sat down to dinner, his favourite aubergine dish was starkly absent. The imam demanded to know the reason for its disappearance. The bride replied, “My dear husband, I cannot make your favourite dish anymore, for we have no more olive oil. You will have to buy some more.” The lmam was so shocked by the news that he fainted. And so ever since that day, his favorite dish has become known as ‘Imam Bayildi’,(the imam fainted).”

I’ve had a bumper crop of these beautiful Italian heirloom eggplant this year.

If you’ve ever cooked eggplant, you know how much oil it will soak up during cooking. If you make the following recipe, be sure your oil is well heated before you add the eggplant, and it won’t absorb quite as much oil.

Jackstraw Eggplant
Panko Crumbs
Oil for frying

Peel eggplant and cut into 1/4″ slices.  First flour the slices.

Then give the slices an egg bath.

Finally, coat the slices in Panko crumbs.  My mom always used corn flake crumbs, but once I discovered Panko a few years ago, they became my preference.  Nothing crisps up quite like Panko crumbs.

I like to have all my eggplant coated and on my cutting board before I begin frying.

Heat oil over medium high heat. Fry a few slices at a time.  You’ll get the best crispy results if you don’t crowd the pan. OK, a little bunny trail about oil.  I use lard, but feel free to use olive oil.  I won’t go into a lengthy explanation of my views on oils and saturated fats, but I will tell you that I eat real fats.  Real raw butter from cows raised on grass, real lard from pigs allowed to roam pasture. Real beef fat from cows raised on grass, not grain.  Real chicken fat from happy, roaming chickens.  You get the picture.  I wouldn’t touch those highly processed tubs of lard they sell in the grocery store with a 10 foot pole. Back to business.

Once the eggplant is browned on both sides and tender, place on draining rack or paper towels.  I like to eat my Jackstraw eggplant sprinkled with a little salt and Parmesan cheese, and served with a simple salad of fresh garden tomatoes with a little basil, salt, and pepper.  I’m ashamed to say I ate two whole medium sized eggplants for dinner this evening. See what happens, Mom, for not feeding me enough eggplant when I was a kid.

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