Eggplant avoiding soggy, oily
Any tips to avoid soggy, oily eggplant when pan frying/browning?
When I've attempted it, I have to throw it out because it soaks up oil like a sponge.
About how long does eggplant at 1/2 - 3/4" thick take to be fully cooked?
I was thinking perhaps I should bake it rather than brown it but then I'd miss the
crust. At 110-117 degrees these weeks here in the desert, it's too hot outside to fiddle with a grille.
I have found that a wok works well for sautéeing eggplant cut into cubes or sticks. You can get a nice semi-charred/caramelized effect without too much oil, but you'll still want to use somewhat more oil than if you were stir-frying other vegetables. Don't crowd too much; two handfuls of eggplant pieces is about the limit of my wok, to which I first put a couple of Tbsp. oil until it starts to shimmer/smoke. Then I drizzle on another 1-2 Tbsp. oil as I go -- just enough to prevent sticking. Not sure on time.. ten minutes or so? That will depend on the eggplant, your wok and your burner output.
If the eggplant must be in slices, you could try brushing each slice with oil and then using your oven's broiler. I have no idea about cooking time; it will depend on your oven and how close the slices are to the heat.
If I'm making eggplant parmesan, I dredge the slices in flour and then beaten egg (NO bread crumbs!), which I fry in about 1/2"-1/4" of oil in a frying pan until the egg coating is crispy, and a light to medium brown. They come out somewhat oily but not too bad after blotting w/paper towels. The coating prevents the oil from getting immediately into the inside of the slice, and tomato sauce ends up 'cutting' the excess grease.
I also find that the larger eggplants can be more spongy. At the market two weeks ago, I found some fairly ugly smallish ones (the only ones they had) for which I did not hold high hopes. They were very dense, and cutting them was like cutting an apple. As it turns out, they came out the best I had ever had: very sweet flavor and very little oil absorption. They didn't collapse while cooking, but maintained their shape. We are probably all getting short-changed in the Eggplant Quality department, generally speaking!
One thing that works well for me is to lightly score and salt each slice or chunk, and then put them on a slantboard (or for chunks) a colander for an hour. Then press gently and dry. Remember when you cook it, there's salt already. This method pulls a ton of water out of the 'plant, which is probably what's hindering you. You can also rinse the slices quickly and dry them if you want. Oh, and a half-inch slice of eggplant should take 2-3 minutes per side, probably closer to 3, if you want to serve it that way, or you could flash-brown it and finish in a hot oven. Finally, if you use Panko, and do the oven method, your food should stay crisp.
Use a basting brush to control the oil- because yes, as you've found, the eggplant will soak up ever bit of oil available.