Monday, December 6, 2010

CSA week two - Stuffed eggplant in black bean sauce

I started this dish with a recipe by Richard Ng, the owner/chef of Bo Lings in Kansas City. The original recipe calls for slicing the eggplant into thick rounds, slicing a pocket into each, stuffing them with shrimp, deep frying them, making a sauce from scratch, dipping them in the sauce and then steaming them.

I changed it a bit to emphasize the eggplant over the shrimp and simplified it so it was suitable not just as a weekday dinner, but as a weekday after going shopping and discovering that Whole Foods doesn't carry dried shrimp any more so you can't do the callaloo recipe you wanted to and they also don't have creamed corn so you can't do the back-up recipe either, not as written anyway, dinner.

Instead of cutting the eggplant rounds, I just cut it lengthwise (and then across so so it would fit in the steamer), sliced off a little bit of the skin side so it would sit flat and then scooped out a shallow trench to put the shrimp in.

The shrimp, instead of cutting into pea-sized pieces and stirring for four minutes until it gets sticky, I just blended (with the scooped out eggplant) in a food processor into a coarse paste. Shamefully, I didn't even bother to devein them. I did season them with generous salt and white pepper, I should mention.

Instead of deep frying, I browned the eggplant on both sides in just a Tablespoon or two of oil. Since I made boats instead of sandwiches, I did this before stuffing the shrimp in.

As the eggplant cooled, I made the sauce. I started with Lee Kum Kee prepared black bean garlic sauce and doctored it up with a little of soy sauce, sugar, rice wine and sesame oil--all the ingredients in the recipe that weren't in the ingredient list on the bottle-- until I got the flavor in the right neighborhood. Then I added a little corn starch so the sauce would thicken up during steaming and stick to the eggplant better.

I flipped the eggplant boats over, spooned a little sauce over the bottoms, flipped them back, stuffed them with the shrimp mixture, put them into the steamer (in the same pot I fried them in earlier), spooned some more sauce over top, covered and steamed for 13 minutes. That's it.

I think I missed the mark on the sauce, but not too badly. It thickened up a little too much, but the flavor's pretty close to what I've had at dim sum places. The salty deeply savory richness pairs well with the sweet eggplant and shrimp, but it's maybe a little bitter. I should have added a little more sugar and it could have used some ginger too. Visually, it could be a lot more appealing, I'll grant you.

The thicker pieces of eggplant is falling apart, but the thin end holds together well. The deep frying in the original recipe must drive out enough moisture that it firms up and can survive the steaming better. The texture of the shrimp is pretty good, though--a nice meaty chew.

Overall, not bad at all for a quick dinner. The biggest problem was that it was best hot out of the steamer, but cooled down quick while I took pictures and stopped to write up my impressions. I'm not used to that happening in Miami. Weird.

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