I don't eat many vegetables. So, by default, I sure as heck don't eat much eggplant. Of course, dishes like Eggplant Parmesan may prove tantalizing to some, but I find such preparations do more to hide, rather than enhance, eggplant's true nutty and smoky flavors.
Luckily, the Filipino dish known as Tortang Talong indeed takes advantage of the purple nightshade's flavors and textures--and it's a dish that I happen to love.
Tortang Talong can be roughly translated to mean "Tortured Eggplant" (that isn't actually true, but it sounds cool don't it?). In fact, whenever an innocent eggplant falls into my clutches, I like to go medieval on its proverbial ass. That's right. Nothing brings the best out of eggplant better than good ol' ridicule, humiliation, and physical abuse. Step into my culinary dungeon, won't ye?
To make Tortang Talong, I begin with an everyday, mild-mannered eggplant. Then, after laughing maniacally in it's face, I dunk the eggplant's stem end, or head, into some water for about 10 minutes--or up to 30 minutes if I'm feeling especially deranged that day. Soaking the eggplant's stem in water will keep the stem from burning off in the next tortuous step--burnin' its skin somethin' terrible!
There are a variety of ways in which to char and burn an eggplant. You can use a blowtorch, or you can stick the eggplant directly under the broiler. But I like to place the eggplant across the grates of a hot grill--just long enough so that the eggplant's purple hue turns into a hellish black, and its insides become soft, but not quite mushy.
Charred, I'm sure.
While grilling an eggplant leads to the utmost in smokiness, placing eggplant directly on a stove burner and turning with tongs can be just as satisfying. The stovetop method works especially well for smaller eggplants such as the Indian variety. Again, you only want to place an eggplant on the stove burner just long enough so that the skin chars, and the insides soften a bit.
Sadly, "Baba Ganoush" was not the correct safe word
for these lil' eggplants.
After the skin has been properly charred on the eggplant, set the poor soul aside for a few minutes. This rest period is essential for the eggplant to plan his escape and avoid further punishment. Alas, this is only a ploy for false hope. Really, the rest period is for the sole purpose of allowing the eggplant to cool to the touch--so that you can then rip it's skin off! Mwahahaha!
Go ahead, skin it!
Skin that smokewagon and see what happens!
Once the burned skin is picked from the eggplant's steaming carcass, the eggplant must then be mooshed and flattened. When mooshing and flattening helpless objects, I usually turn to a baseball bat studded with rusty nails, or even a sweet pair of nunchucks. But in this particular case, a fork works pretty well.
Although flattening the flesh of the eggplant can be quite fun, do resist the urge to poke any holes in the eggplant. Simply flattening the eggplant to about a quarter-inch would be optimal.
By now, the eggplant's spirits have surely been broken--what with all the burning and the smashing. But to make sure, use his head as a handle, pick him up, and then dunk his smooshed body into an egg bath of shame.
Next, remove the eggplant from its egg bath of shame, then spread a thin layer of ground meat atop the eggplant. Tortang Talong usually calls for ground pork, but ground beef or turkey would be fine as well. I happened to use Mexican Chorizo that I cooked with some onions and garlic for my Tortang Talong. Why Mexican Chorizo? Because it was all I had in my culinary dungeon at the time. That, and because it's effing delicious.
Tarred and feathered Egged and Chorizo'd.
Once properly battered (Ha! Battered! Get it?!), throw the eggplant into a hot frying pan slicked with a thin film of oil. Fry the first side of the eggplant for a few minutes, until the egg has set, then carefully flip onto the meat side and fry for another few minutes.
Into the frying pan.
Finally, the time has arrived for the eggplant's comeuppance! Comeuppance I say! While many Filipinos enjoy their Tortang Talong with ketchup, I feel that the spicy bite of Sriracha adds insult to injury.
Tortured Eggplant = Tasty Eggplant.
Because of the grilling, the nuttiness and smokiness of the eggplant is intensified--and along with the smoky and spicy chorizo, the whole dish works wonderfully well. I chose not to utilize any soy, patis, salt, or pepper because the Mexican Chrorizo was already full of flavor--but if using plain ground meat, do be sure to season to taste.
Of course, you can completely omit the meat in this dish for a vegetarian version. Just dip the smooshed eggplant in egg, and fry. I usually omit the meat when I make Tortang Talong from small Indian eggplant.
How cute! Mini Tortang Talong!
Simply serve the Tortang Talong with some steamed white rice and enjoy.
Truth be told, the word "Talong" translates to "eggplant," and the word "Tortang" may actually be derived from the Spanish word "Torta," or omellete. So Tortang Talong really is just a Filipino eggplant omelette of sorts.
Despite the true meaning of this dish, I still like to call it "Tortured Eggplant" because that poor purple fella goes through a lot before ultimately finding his final resting place in my belly. FREEEEEDOOOOOOMMMMM!
In other news...
I'm not sure how or why this happened, but I've been nominated for "Most Humorous Blog" in the upcoming Foodbuzz Blog Awards. Apparently, there are a few readers out there that find humor in my, uh, sense of humor. I'm greatly flattered by this as I often feel I'm more annoying than humorous, so thanks to those of you who nominated me--whoever you are.
If you happen to be someone that actually finds my blog "Most Humorous," then by all means, CLICK HERE AND VOTE FOR ME!
Now, onto the recipe:
Tortang Talong (Filipino Eggplant Omelette)
2 eggplant (the long and slender Japanese or Filipino variety), each 8-10 inches long
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 pound Mexican chorizo sausage, removed from casing
2 eggs, beaten
(Optional) Soak the stems of the eggplants in water for 10-15 minutes (I like to turn the eggplants upside down in a measuring cup of water). Soaking the stems prevents them from burning off. You need the stems to stay intact so that you can use them to handle the eggplant.
Place the eggplants on a hot grill over direct heat. Grill for 3-5 minutes, then turn with tongs and grill for another 3-5 minutes, until the skin of the eggplant is blackened and charred. The inside of the eggplant should be soft, but still able to hold its shape. Remove the eggplant from the grill and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the onions and garlic to the pan, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the onions become translucent. Add the chorizo to the pan, and stir together with the onions and garlic. Continue stirring until chorizo is cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Remove the chorizo mixture from the pan and set aside on a plate to cool.
Peel the blackened skin from the cooled eggplant, leaving the stem intact. Using a fork, flatten the eggplant until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Place the beaten eggs into a large shallow dish. Dip each of the peeled and flattened eggplants into the eggs, making sure the eggplants are coated well on both sides, then place the eggplants on a separate platter.
Take any remaining beaten eggs and add to the chorizo mixture. Stir to combine. Spread equal amounts of the chorizo mixture into a thin layer on each of the eggplants.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a fry pan over medium-high heat. Carefully place the eggplants into the pan and fry 2-3 minutes per side. Remove eggplant from pan and serve immediately with steamed rice.
Burned, flattened, battered, and fried.
Tasty, tasty torture.