The Perfect Roasted Eggplant
August 30, 2022
Let's Taco 'Bout Perfect Roasted Eggplant
Eggplants take us to our happy place. They’re creamy, with a velvety-soft texture that reminds us of our favorite time of year - late summer/early fall, when the waters have warmed up, the days are pleasingly languid and slow, and the fruit and vegetable harvests are peaking.
Still, many people are timid about cooking eggplants, daunted by their spongy, bitter raw form. But once cooked properly, an eggplant achieves something truly decadent. It can be prepared to impress in a variety of ways, but our preferred method at Chaia is roasting.
Here’s our step-by-step guide on perfect roasted eggplant:
- Use quality, seasonal produce. Choose eggplants with shiny, smooth skin and with only the slightest amount of give. Steer clear of bruised, wrinkly, or mushy eggplants.
- Go for uniformity. Eggplants benefit from uniform-sized cuts and thicknesses (diced or sliced) so that everything cooks evenly. Depending on the cut, the pieces will take 15-25 minutes to thoroughly cook so they’re caramelized* on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.
- Pre-salt. Place the diced pieces or slices on a baking sheet, sprinkle well with salt, and leave them on the kitchen counter for up to an hour. Salting the pieces, then pat-drying them before cooking, draws out the excess water, allowing them to brown. Eggplants are 80 to 90 percent water, so this step is key. The salt also acts as a dry brine to bring out the flavors.
- Balance is key. Eggplants are like sponges; they will absorb whatever ingredients you’re using, including oil, salt, and red pepper chili flakes like we use. So don’t go too heavy on the spices or marinades, but don’t go too light either.
- Give them wiggle room. *Because eggplants contain so much water, you want to give plenty of space between pieces. This allows the water to evaporate and proper caramelization to take place. We also recommend giving them a toss midway through so that they cook evenly.
At Chaia, we dice our eggplant into 1.5-inch cubes, pre-salt, pat dry, then toss with our homemade olio picante and roast for 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 400 degrees.
We pair our Roasted Eggplant Taco with chèvre, salsa de jalapeño crudo, and red sorrel.