We love low-and-slow cooking. In fact, we love it so much, we hosted a whole contest on it. Bring on the simmering stews and bubbling braises, the slow cookers and Instant Pots. We'll throw anything in a Dutch oven and intentionally (and safely!) walk away from it. These dishes are reliably deep, rich, aromatic—and few things are as comforting as a hunk of meat or pot of beans that's been gently cooking for hours.
But what if you don't have hours to give? What if you want all that simmer-y, braise-y flavor but don't have a brisket's worth of time to achieve it?
Enter, eggplant. Growing up, I was used to globe eggplants, those mammoth, dark purple, emoji ones. We roasted them forever in the oven until tender, then mashed them into an olive oily dip. We breaded and pan-fried thick slabs, layered those with marinara and mozzarella. But there’s a whole world of eggplants out there and, for braising, a smaller variety, like petite graffitis or fairy tales, is best. When they’re little, all you have to do is cut them in half, salt lavishly, sear on both sides, and they’re halfway to tender (and halfway to this addictive, coconut-y vegetarian situation).
From there, transfer your seared eggplants to a plate, then make a quickie curry. I borrowed this approach from Alexandra Stafford, who borrowed it from Julia Turshen for curried lentils. Basically, you sauté ginger, garlic, and shallot, plus coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Then add in some mustard for a little ka-pow!
Sauté your curry foundation until your whole kitchen smells earthy and punchy and invigorating, then bring on the scallions and shiitakes. As soon as everyone is acquainted, add lots of coconut milk, then get those eggplants back in there and simmer away. Except, don’t walk away for too long, because it takes not three hours or two hours or even one hour—but 30 minutes. What're you waiting for?
- 2 graffiti eggplants (about 175 grams each, 5 to 6 inches in length)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 pinches kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or Microplaned
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon ground mustard (preferably Colman’s), plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups sliced shiitakes
- 7 scallions, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
- 1/4 cup barely chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup barely chopped basil
- 1/4 cup barely chopped mint
What’s your favorite braising recipe? Tell us about it in the comments below!