Japanese eggplant turns into delicious roasted eggplant sticks for cocktails with a little slicing and a hot oven.
Long and skinny, Japanese eggplant offers a balanced crusty skin-to-creamy inside ratio when roasted in long sticks. You can’t get that nice balance using the bigger, oblong-shaped eggplant with all that inner vegetable matter. The key to making this a passable pick-up cocktail snack is slicing the vegetable into long sticks, aiming to make them about twice a large as you want them to turn out. There’s quite a bit of shrinking after 40 or so minutes in a hot oven.
Get out a half baking sheet (18″ x 13″) or other flat, rimmed ovenproof tray and preheat the oven to 425F. With a sharp knife remove the ends of the rinsed Japanese eggplant. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, and then cut the two halves in half lengthwise. If your Japanese eggplant is on the larger side you can continue to divide the sections, but err on the side of a little too large. If the raw vegetable slices are too small then the inside will cook away leaving you with just the chewy skin, and you want skin and interior both for this snack.
Scatter the slices on the sheet, drizzle with any oil you like and season with Kosher salt. From there the sky is the limit, flavor profile-wise. One favorite around here is to skip the Kosher salt and apply a generous amount of Indian vegetable masala seasoning like the Shan brand available at Indian and International markets.
Roast about 40 minutes and, every 15 minutes or so, gently flip the sticks over with a spatula, move them around the half sheet, for relatively even cooking and browning.
We usually make a half dozen eggplant at a time and store in a container in the fridge. They reheat well in a toaster oven and take on even more crust and structure when reheated. Adjust the salt level as needed when you try them.
We love all eggplant and put it to use in a bunch of great dishes. Here are some easy links to get you to those recipes: