My dad has been making Eggplant Balls as long as I can remember. They are a cross between a meatball and a croquette, but we just call them balls. The outside is super crunchy, while the inside is ridiculously creamy. I think they’re best right after frying, but they’re still tasty at room temperature, and even good cold, although the texture will be different.
I often make a double batch, mixing everything to the point of frying, then divide the mixture into 2 so I can freeze some for a later time. Just defrost the mixture and pick up where you left off.
Dad’s Eggplant Balls // Serves 4
2 pounds purple eggplant, about 2 medium
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup pecorino, finely grated
1 ¼ cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs, divided
½ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, optional
Vegetable oil, for frying
1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil.
2. Meanwhile, trim the tops and bottoms from the eggplant and peel. Cut the eggplant into quarters, lengthwise. Cut each quarter into 5 chunks.
3. Carefully add the eggplant to the boiling water.
4. Boil for 12-15 minutes, until the eggplant has softened. Use a spider to stir and submerge the chunks every so often. The eggplant should be very soft and mushy, but still hold its shape.
5. Strain the eggplant in a colander. Put the colander into a bowl, leaving at least 2 inches of space between the colander and the bowl. Place a weight over the eggplant and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, to remove as much liquid as possible. Discard the extracted liquid.
6. Fill a large high-sided skillet with ½” worth of canola oil.
7. Heat the oil, over medium-high heat, to 350 degrees.
8. Meanwhile, transfer the eggplant to a large bowl.
9. Using your hands, break the eggplant into smallish chunks.
10. Add the egg, pecorino, ¾ cup breadcrumbs, garlic powder, pepper and red pepper flakes.
11. Using your hands, mush all the ingredients together, to combine. It’s okay if there are some chunks of eggplant left.
12. Portion the eggplant mixture into 2 ounce balls, a little larger than a golf ball.
13. Roll the balls in the remaining breadcrumbs and gently flatten the balls.
14. Fry the eggplant balls on both sides until deep golden brown.
15. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and serve immediately.
If using cast iron to press the eggplant, wrap it well in plastic wrap, otherwise it will discolor and ruin the eggplant.
SWAP OPTION: Use parmesan and a generous pinch of salt instead of pecorino.
CHEF’S TIP: Make 1 ounce balls when serving as an appetizer or an hors d’oeuvre.