Crispy eggplant fried golden brown is a study in textural contrast. While the crusty exterior crackles with crispness, the inside cooks to a smooth, almost sauce-like creaminess. And when topped with a velvet cloak of rich and spicy crawfish étouffée, this is a culinary combination that is sheer genius.
I’ve danced around this dish for years, but never sorted it out for this particular pairing until now. Eggplant is often seen in Cajun and Creole dishes cooked down and smothered in a dressing or sometimes fried up and combined with poached eggs for brunch. On occasion, I’ve topped fried eggplant with a Creole tomato red gravy for an Italian parm-like dish. And I’ve even done a whole eggplant scooped out into a pirogue and fried up as a vessel for seafood. You just can’t beat the versatility of eggplant.
But this recipe version impresses me on several fronts. It is the perfect starter to an elegant dinner party. I like the convenience of the make-ahead étouffée sauce combined with the quick 5-minute, fried-to-order crispness of the eggplant that ensures this dish is at the peak of quality when served. My guests are always astounded.
Give this one a try and I’ll bet it becomes a classic on your Acadiana table as well.
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- ½ cup diced green bell pepper
- ½ cup diced celery
- ½ tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 pound Louisiana crawfish tail meat
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup seafood stock
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Dash of hot sauce
- 1 large eggplant
- Kosher salt
- Peanut oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
- ½ cup diced green onion tops
- In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and sauté until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, lower the heat to simmer, and stir to combine. Add the crawfish tail meat and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, stir to incorporate, and add the stock. Stir until the stock thickens into a tight sauce-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Let simmer for 5 minutes longer and then turn off the heat. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- Slice the eggplant into 4 rounds of uniform 1-inch thickness. Place on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides with salt and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- In a large pot with at least 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat, bring the temperature of the oil to 350ºF.
- Remove the eggplant from the refrigerator and using paper towels remove any excess moisture or surface salt.
- In a shallow bowl, add the flour and seasoning. Stir to combine.
- In a shallow bowl, add the egg, milk, and hot sauce; whisk to combine.
- In a shallow bowl, add the bread crumbs.
- Dip each eggplant round into the flour; add to the egg mixture; and coat with the bread crumbs.
- Add the coated eggplant to the hot grease and fry until golden brown on both sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle with salt.
- For serving, add the eggplant rounds to a platter and spoon a generous portion of étouffée over each. Sprinkle with green onion tops and serve family style as an appetizer.
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