Make This 30-Minute Braise When There's No Time for Low & Slow

April  3, 2018

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).

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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?

What’s your favorite braising recipe? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.