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Kashk-o-Bādemjān (Persian Braised Eggplant With Kashk) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Pan-frying the eggplant till deeply browned after which braising it in a small quantity of water provides it a silky, creamy texture and a refined caramelized taste.
  • Braising the kashk with the eggplant permits kashk’s tangy and savory taste to infuse into each chunk; including extra kashk as a remaining drizzle earlier than serving ensures that its umami character is entrance and middle.

Kashk-o-bādemjān (Persian kashk and eggplant) is arguably the preferred heat appetizer within the Persian culinary panorama. That is an unfussy, straightforward to make, and wealthy dish. You will discover it within the starter part on the menu of virtually all Persian eating places. 

Kashk-o-bādemjān has a silky texture ensuing from the eggplants having been cooked twice—initially pan-fried after which braised in a small quantity of water. Pan-frying the eggplants to a deep brownish shade additionally offers a refined caramelized taste to the dish. A creamy and thick type of kashk—an essential fermented dairy ingredient in Persian cookery—provides this dish its distinctive tangy-umami taste.

The kashk’s tangy taste blends into the physique of the dish when it’s added to the eggplant whereas braising. After the eggplant is braised till velvety, it’s transferred to a serving platter, the place extra kashk is drizzled on prime, guaranteeing that its vibrant umami taste might be current in each chunk. Along with streams of creamy kashk, the dish is topped with fried onions, garlic, and crushed dried mint leaves.

In sit-down Persian eating places within the Iranian diaspora, the place dishes are served in programs, kashk-o-bādemjān is usually served as an appetizer. In Persian dwelling settings, the place all of the dishes for a meal are delivered to the desk on the identical time, it usually acts as a facet dish. In all instances, it’s generally accompanied by some form of Persian flatbread (e.g., lavāsh, sangak, tāftoon, babari) or one other kind of flatbread equivalent to pita. It may, nonetheless, perform as a most important dish when a big portion is served together with a hefty quantity of flatbread and accompanied possibly by a bowl of yogurt and sabzi khordan, the normal Persian plate of recent herbs and feta cheese.

Kashk: A Nearer Look

As described above, kashk is a key ingredient on this recipe. It’s a fermented dairy product and is a standard pantry item in Persian cookery. Conventional Persian kashk is a product of the yogurt-making course of. Churning high-fat yogurt creates two by-products: butter and a leftover liquid referred to as doogh (the method is considerably just like churning cultured cream to produce butter and buttermilk). The doogh is boiled down right into a thick, creamy paste that’s strained and dried within the solar: that is kashk. It’s tangy, a bit salty, and sourish, with umami traits not not like what one finds in a really mature Parmesan cheese. It imparts a singular and widespread taste to a variety of Persian dishes together with thick soups like āsh-e-reshteh (a vegetable noodle soup), porridge-like dishes together with halim (constructed from wheat and meat), and starter dishes equivalent to this kashk-o-bādemjān.

Kashk is an historical foodstuff. It has been a vital ingredient within the eating regimen of not solely the Iranian individuals, but in addition different cultures dwelling in Central and Western Asia, for hundreds of years. There are references to it as an essential meals merchandise in one of many oldest surviving texts in Center Persian language from the Parthian Empire period of circa 200 BCE to 200 CE.

Kashk started as one of many earliest dairy preservation strategies utilized closely by nomadic individuals. It was light-weight, which made it fairly transportable, and it was lengthy lasting as its absence of fats meant it might not go rancid. It was additionally full of protein and calcium, and deeply flavorful. 

Lately, you should purchase kashk in three completely different kinds: dried powder, dried chunks within the form of balls or sticks, and jars of concentrated liquid kashk. No matter which of the three kinds you buy, for cooking functions, they’re all usually remodeled right into a thick creamy liquid with the consistency of crêpe batter, in order that it may be drizzled.

The dry powder kind must be rehydrated with water. The dried chunks, that are relatively arduous, should be soaked in water for about six hours earlier than they grow to be malleable sufficient to work with. Each dry kinds, after being rehydrated, want a little bit of heavy-handed stirring (ideally with the assistance of a meals processor, blender, or immersion blender); in any other case, they might have a barely gritty texture. The simplest kind to make use of for cooking, in a typical trendy Western dwelling kitchen, is the paste-like concentrated liquid kashk that is available in glass jars. It has the consistency of thick mayonnaise and is definitely diluted for drizzling functions. (One can even make kashk from scratch at dwelling however that might be a complete completely different article.)

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


Jars of concentrated liquid kashk, which is my really helpful kind, are available from Persian and Center Japanese markets, in addition to in worldwide meals aisles of well-stocked grocery shops. Actually, partially as a consequence of an rising curiosity proven to kashk by such well-known cooks and meals writers as Yotam Ottolenghi, you could discover a number of manufacturers of jars of liquid kashk on the cabinets of your favourite specialty grocery retailer. 

In preparation for this text, I bought 4 completely different manufacturers of kashk from the identical Center Japanese market. All of them got here in 16-ounce (454g) glass jars and have been comparably priced. I examined them for taste and texture, and I’m glad to say that every one 4 have been equally good, which is in step with my ongoing expertise buying completely different manufacturers through the years.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


The Eggplant

Eggplant is without doubt one of the hottest greens (sure, botanically it is a fruit) in Persian cooking. You will discover eggplants in a variety of Persian dishes, starting from starters to sides, soups, porridges, egg-centered dishes, rice dishes, braises, stuffed greens, pickles, and even jams. 

Though there are a lot of several types of eggplants in several shapes, sizes, and colours, Persian dwelling cooks classify them merely in two teams: skinny purple ones and fats purple ones. The thin ones, which usually don’t have as many seeds, are supposed to be minimize up lengthwise and are the popular kind for braising, pan frying, and mashing, whereas the fats ones are most well-liked for stuffed eggplant dishes.

The important thing benefits of thin eggplants for Persian cookery are that they’re simpler to pan-fry since they solely should be minimize as soon as crosswise to sear, they usually maintain their form properly throughout braising.

Virtually talking, any sort of eggplant will do for kashk-o-bādemjān since they’ll partially be smashed after they’re cooked. Nonetheless, skinny ones are nonetheless most well-liked since they don’t have any noticeable seeds.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


The Historical past of This Dish

Although kashk has been across the Persian cookery panorama for hundreds of years, this dish is a bit youthful. You see, eggplant didn’t discover its manner into the Iranian plateau till round eighth century CE, possible arriving from India. One of many earliest identified references to eggplant being grown in Iran is in an historical complete e book on medication by the well-known Iranian doctor, thinker, and alchemist Abu Bakr al-Rāzi, who lived in c. 9-Tenth century CE. He makes use of the colour of eggplant grown in Iran because the definition of purpleness. 

One of many earliest identified references to kashk-o-bādemjān is within the work of the 14th century satirical Persian poet Boshaq At’Ameh, who used Persian culinary terminology in his poetry. The primary full-fledged recipe for a dish that very a lot resembles modern Persian kashk-o-bādemjān is in a sixteenth century Persian language cookbook.

Tools Wanted

Kashk-o-bādemjān preparation asks for the peeled eggplants to be pan-fried earlier than being braised. My go-to vessel for pan-frying has been my well-seasoned 12-inch cast-iron skillet. It really works particularly properly for pan frying not-too-thick slices—no thicker than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters)—of eggplant. In the case of kashk-o-bādemjān, I usually have extra eggplants to pan-fry than comfortably slot in my largest cast-iron skillet. That is once I now pull out my not-used-very-often electrical pancake griddle. With it, I get 3 times as a lot frying floor, and through the years, I’ve seen that I exploit much less oil and get nearly as good outcomes as once I use my beloved cast-iron skillet. So in case you have an electrical griddle, take into account turning it right into a multitasker if it’s not already.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


The Cooking Technique

Virtually all historic cookbooks, and lots of modern ones, together with Persian language ones, point out a bitterness in eggplant and sometimes suggest salting and draining earlier than cooking. To begin with, trendy meals science tells us that the molecules in eggplant that may be a supply of bitterness are manner too huge for salt molecules to tug out—salting merely masks our notion of any bitterness. Furthermore, such bitterness that will have been current in older, bigger, eggplant varieties grown in dry environments is not a difficulty nowadays. The eggplants you discover in your favourite grocery shops are bred to not be bitter. 

The spongy inside construction of eggplants, notably the fatter ones, take in oil when being pan-fried, which makes the ensuing dish very wealthy. Through the years, cooks have provide you with all types of methods to reduce the oil-soaking-ness of eggplants: immersing the eggplants in salty water for an prolonged time frame, pre-cooking them in a microwave, brushing them with egg whites, and many others. Right here, there is no want to fret about any such pre-processing of eggplants. The additional richness achieved by eggplants absorbing oil throughout pan frying is a key attribute of this dish. Furthermore, as detailed within the recipe beneath, any really additional oil will drip away naturally if the pan-fried eggplants are left to relaxation on a cooling rack positioned over a baking sheet for a couple of minutes.

The ultimate stage of this dish’s preparation, which takes place proper earlier than it’s taken to the desk, entails topping it with a number of substances (golden fried onions, drizzles of kashk, olive oil or butter infused with crushed garlic and crushed dried mint leaves). That is only a reminder so that you can stage all of the toppings to make sure the finished dish arrives on the desk nonetheless scorching.

Kashk-o-Bādemjān (Persian Braised Eggplant With Kashk)

This silky combination of twice-cooked eggplant with tangy kashk, fried onions, garlic, and dried mint is a mainstay on most Persian restaurant menus.

  • 3/4 cup (177ml) concentrated liquid kashk paste (see notes)

  • Additional-virgin olive oil, impartial oil equivalent to vegetable or avocado oil, or a mix, for frying

  • 2 kilos (about 900g) eggplant (lengthy, skinny eggplant equivalent to Japanese eggplant most well-liked), trimmed, peeled, and halved lengthwise (see notes)

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly floor black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon floor turmeric

  • 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil 

  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried mint leaves

  • 3 or 4 medium cloves garlic (relying on garlic desire), finely minced or very properly crushed

  • 1/2 cup fried shallots

  • Lavash or pita bread for serving

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk kashk paste with 1/4 cup (60ml) water till properly mixed. Regulate consistency with extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, till it’s thick however pourable (just like a crêpe batter); put aside.

    Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


  2. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and line with a triple layer of paper towels. Fill a 12-inch cast-iron skillet 1/4 inch deep with oil, then warmth over excessive warmth till oil is shimmering however not smoking. Working in batches to forestall crowding the skillet, rigorously add eggplant slices, flesh facet down, and fry, flipping as soon as midway by, till eggplant is darkish golden brown on each side, about 10 minutes. Switch eggplant to ready rack. Add extra oil to skillet, if wanted, then repeat with remaining eggplant.

    Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


  3. In a separate giant saucepan, add the fried eggplant, 3/4 cup water, pepper, and turmeric and convey to a boil over excessive warmth. Cut back warmth to medium-low, cowl, and simmer for 20 minutes, adjusting warmth as wanted to take care of simmer.

    Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


  4. Uncover and add half of the reserved diluted kashk. Utilizing a fork or potato masher, gently stir to mix and break up the eggplant till midway mashed. Cowl and proceed to simmer, stirring sometimes and persevering with to softly mash and break down the eggplant combination, till eggplant is damaged down and sauce has thickened, about half-hour. Sauce ought to be chunky however properly blended and emulsified right into a cohesive combination. If any undesired extra oil stays, use a spoon to take away from the combination.

    Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


  5. In the meantime, in a separate small saute pan, soften butter over low warmth (or warmth 2 tablespoons olive oil till shimmering). Add mint and garlic and cook dinner, stirring, till aromatic, about 1 minute.

    Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


  6. Switch braised eggplant combination to a shallow serving bowl. Drizzle with remaining diluted kashk. High with fried onions, then spoon garlic-mint combination over prime. Serve with lavash or pita bread.

    Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


Notes

I favor to make use of slender, purple-hued eggplant. Skinny eggplants labeled as Japanese eggplant or Chinese language eggplant will each work properly on this recipe. You might substitute fatter spherical eggplants equivalent to globe eggplant; if utilizing this sort, slice them into 1-inch-thick (2cm) disks for frying. 

The recipe requires concentrated liquid kashk, which is the best type of kashk to make use of for cooking. Nonetheless, dry kashk—whether or not in powder kind or chunks—will also be used. Substitute 7 ounces (200g) dry kashk for every cup of concentrated liquid kashk. The dry powder must be rehydrated with water. The dried chunks, that are relatively arduous, should be soaked in water for about six hours earlier than they grow to be malleable sufficient to work with. Each dry kinds, after being rehydrated, want a little bit of heavy-handed stirring (ideally utilizing a meals processor, blender, or immersion blender); in any other case, they might have a barely gritty texture.

Kashk is accessible at most Persian and Center Japanese markets. If you happen to don’t have entry to kashk of any sort, you possibly can create your individual substitute by mixing TK finely grated Parmesan cheese into TK crème fraiche, thinning with water as wanted. Alternatively, you possibly can stir TK lime juice into tk bitter cream.

Make-Forward and Storage

Steps 1 by 4 will be accomplished a day or two forward and refrigerated in an hermetic container. When able to serve, warmth the cooked combination of eggplant and kashk in a saucepan over medium-low warmth or in a shallow serving platter within the microwave. Carry out steps 6 and seven a couple of minutes earlier than you need to serve the dish.

The braised eggplant and kashk combination will be saved in an hermetic container and frozen for as much as 3 months. 

Pan-fried eggplants freeze fairly properly so long as they’re saved in an hermetic container. Every time I see good-quality skinny eggplants at an affordable value, I purchase a number of kilos, pan-fry them, and retailer them in 1-pound parts in freezer baggage for making this or different eggplant-based dishes later.

Retailer purchased thick liquid kashk usually is available in 16–fluid ounce glass jars. As soon as opened, it should be refrigerated and can final solely two to a few weeks. If you happen to don’t assume you’ll undergo a complete jar inside that point interval, here’s a confirmed approach to increase its life to months: Divide any leftover thick liquid kashk into small silicone molds or in ice dice trays and freeze. As soon as frozen, pop the kashk cubes into particular person small hermetic freezer baggage (three or 4 per bag) and retailer them in your freezer for future use. Whenever you need to use them, drop a couple of frozen cubes right into a mixing bowl, allow them to defrost at room temperature for 10 minutes, and dilute to a drizzle-able state by including a tablespoon or two of water.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


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