On episode 5 of this season’s Top Chef, contestant Chef Kenny Gilbert prepared a curried eggplant dish that won him first place in the challenge. The competition took place on a local farm in Virginia, and given that eggplant is in its peak season right now, he couldn’t have chosen a better ingredient to work with. I was excited to see Chef Kenny pull this recipe out of his arsenal of many as it is one I remember learning during my days working with him at The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island.
Kenny's winning hot/sour eggplant, plated with the team's other items
Once pan roasted with onions and garlic in a depth of olive oil, the caramelized eggplant is cooked slowly with a blend of hot spices until meltingly tender. A dose of sugar is offset with rice wine vinegar lending a wonderful balance of hot, sweet and sour to the vegetables. In my preparation of the dish I decided a citrus yogurt sauce would be perfect served alongside and indeed it added yet another layer of flavor. Its cool, creamy effect perfectly quelled some of the heat from the curry and helped it pass as summer fare.
Preparations where eggplant is the star player are few and far between, so an interesting one like this is worth filing away for those summer months when the nightshade is sweet, ripe and plentiful. Served alone as a vegetarian entree, or along with grilled fish or meat, it is sure to jazz up your summer repertoire.
Hot and Sour Eggplant Recipe:
courtesy of Chef Kenny Gilbert
1/2 c. Vegetable Oil
4 c. Medium Diced Eggplant
1 c. Small Diced White Onion
1 c. Small Diced Orange Bell Pepper
2 T. Curry Powder
2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 c. Chiffonade Carrot Tops
1/4 c. Chiffonade Celery Leaves
1/4 c. Granulated White Sugar (I used brown sugar in my preparation which I think gives it a richer flavor)
2 T. Minced Garlic
1 c. Rice Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat medium sauce pot on medium high heat.
Add vegetable oil, garlic, onions and peppers and sweat vegetables for a few minutes
Add crushed red pepper and curry and toast.
Add sugar and rice wine vinegar.
Add Eggplant and mix together well.
Reduce heat and allow eggplant to cook to just soften.**5-10 minutes.
Add carrot tops, celery leaves and salt and pepper to taste.