September 18, 2015
Taiwanese Eggplant And Clams
You could swap in mussels for clams, but the brininess and chew of fresh clams are the best match for eggplant. Honestly, you could do a version with no shellfish at all and you’d still be golden. The real prize in this recipe is the eggplant technique. Eggplant can be a tricky vegetable to cook as it tends to suck up liquid – especially oil – and then expel it once it’s cooked.
Yield: Serves 4 (or 6 as part of a larger meal)
- Combine the salt with 6 cups water in a large saucepan and stir over medium-high heat until the salt has dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat, add 6 cups ice water, and stir. Let the brine cool to room temperature.
- Immerse the eggplant batons in the cooled brine. Let soak for an hour at room temperature. (You may need to set a plate on top of the eggplant to keep it completely submerged.)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; have a spider or other strainer nearby. Meanwhile, in a deep pot or a wok, heat about 4″ of vegetable or peanut oil to 350°F, or use a deep fryer.
- Once the water is boiling and the oil is hot, set a wok over high heat. Get the wok very hot and coat it with a thin film of oil. Add the garlic, peppercorns, and basil. Sweat the aromatics for a few seconds, then add the Shaoxing wine, stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and black beans. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, then add the clams and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and let everything simmer
until the clams open, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drain the eggplant and shake off as much water as you can, then add it to the hot oil and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it has softened but still has structure. Work in batches, if necessary, to avoid lowering the oil temperature too dramatically. Be very careful here, as the eggplant will steam and splatter when it hits the oil. As precarious as the situation seems, it’s a good thing—the water escaping from the eggplant will prevent the oil from penetrating it. Once the eggplant is cooked, scoop it out with the spider, drop it into the boiling water, and blanch for just a few seconds. The hot water finishes the cooking and washes off any excess oil.
- Scoop out the eggplant with the spider, shake thoroughly to drain off as much water as possible, and add to the wok with the clams. If you’ve timed everything perfectly, the clams will just be fully opening. Kick the heat up to high and toss everything for a minute or so to coat the eggplant and clams in a thin glaze.
- Turn everything out onto a platter and shower with the torn basil and fried garlic. Finish with a spoonful of chili oil and a sprinkle of the turbinado sugar. Serve with steamed rice.