Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Eggplants Escabeche Recipe

Escabeche is an originally Mediterranean marinade which has made it's way into cuisines of several countries all over the world, and has been altered in as many ways. The lowest common denominator is a meat or vegetable main ingredient plus vinegar, oil and spices. Several types of escabeches are popular in Argentina including chicken and fish, but since I'm not too big on preserved meats, I usually eat berejenas en escabeche. I have tried it in several in different restaurants, but this homemade recipe is the best I've had. The dish is served cold or room temperature, perfect for you northamericanos currently enjoying summer!

Berejenas en escabeche / Eggplant escabeche
This recipe is a transcription by me of the work of master chef Alejandro.
Ingredients:
2-4 medium eggplants
3 cups of white vinegar
1-2 cups of sunflower or vegetable oil
4 cloves of garlic
chile powder or shredded chile (approx. 1 1/2 teaspoons)
bay leaves (approx. a dozen)
freshly ground (or crushed/chopped with a knife if you don't have a grinder) black pepper, plus a few whole corns for aesthetics if you'd like
coarse salt (approx. 1/4 cup)
Tools:
knife
large bowl or strainer/colander
large pot
stove
glass jar (or bowl and plastic wrap)

1. Slice eggplants horizontally into half inch/two centimeter-ish slices. Place in a bowl (or better, a strain/colander), sprinkle heavily with course salt and leave to sit 3 - 6 hours.
*You could slice horizontally if you'd like, but it makes storage a little more difficult. You can also remove the skin if you like, but the pieces become soft while cooking, so I think keeping the skin on helps them stay together better. 
2. Rinse the salt off the eggplant (and the bowl because you will be using it again in step 4). In a large pot create a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water, around 1 cup of each for each eggplant you use, i.e. 3 eggplants = 3 cups of vinegar and 3 cups of water. The eggplants do not need to be entirely submerged. Add the eggplants to the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook approximately 8 minutes, until the white part starts looking brownish and the water is becoming purple.
*The amount of vinegar can be adapted to personal preference. If you don't have that much vinegar it's okay, the final product will just be less acidic. Conversely, you could make it up to 75% vinegar if you love vinegar, and the final product will be more acidic. 
3. While the eggplants are boiling, prepare the seasoning. Peel and slice the garlic and grind/crush the pepper. Season the bottom of your large bowl.
4. Strain or remove with a slotted spoon, the slices of eggplant from the vinegar/water. Place them in your bowl in layers. Season with all 4 spices between every layer or every 2 layers.
 
6. When you have used all of the eggplant and spices, pour in enough oil to just cover the eggplant. Sunflower or vegetable oil allows the flavors of the vinegar, eggplant and spices to take center stage, however you can also use olive oil (if that kind of thing is in your budget). Experiment with both and create your own custom recipe.
 5. Leave on the counter to cool until room temperature. When room temperature, cover with plastic (or a plate) and refrigerate 1 hour.
The eggplant escabeche can be served now, or transferred into a jar for storage. The eggplant can be eaten alone but is traditionally eaten atop crackers or bread. You can also try it on pasta, sandwiches and salads. If you want to store it, I recommend using a glass jar, putting the slices into the jar one by one so you don't break them and then pouring in the oil afterwards. An empty Nescafe jar is the perfect size.
 Buen provecho!

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