Did anyone else totally flip out over Kenny’s winning Hot and Sour Eggplant dish from last week’s episode of Top Chef? Watching the judges take bites while discussing its perfect spiciness was almost more than could be tolerated on an empty stomach. Figuring out this recipe took a little legwork. There’s a video on the Bravo website of Chef Michael Voltaggio (last season’s winner) cooking the dish, but no actual print recipe. I took copious notes of each step, but found some of the details to be lacking. Like, say, how much lime and lemon juice to add.
I think this ultimately proved to be my downfall. Chef Voltaggio says to add the juice of “4 each lemon and limes” and the “zest of this fruit,” but we all know that the amount of juice we get can vary from fruit to fruit (also, the zest of one fruit? Or all of them?). It looked like his ramekins held about 1/2 cup and he had one ramekin of each juice, so I went with that.
I know this is hot and sour eggplant, but this just seemed like a lot of juice for this dish. I even had more eggplant than was used in the video because I couldn’t bear throwing away the seed-filled core of the eggplant like Chef Voltaggio did.
This dish was sour. Way sour. Tongue-numblingly sour. I added an extra few tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon or two of salt, and it was still overwhelmingly sour for my taste. I wish I’d held back before adding all the citrus juice or cut it with some chicken broth. By the time I thought of doing this, the eggplant had already absorbed quite a bit of the liquid and I don’t think it would have made a difference.
As my husband said to me, “Just stop trying to fix it. Let’s go get pizza.”
This dish was disappointing for sure. It looks really good, but the flavors just seemed very off-balance to me. Maybe too much curry powder as well? I should also note that my eggplant took about an hour longer to cook than Chef Voltaggio’s dish, which made me all the more sad when it turned out to be inedible.
I’m going to assume that Kenny’s original dish was something fantastic and either the video-recipe or my cooking was just really off. Take a look at the recipe as I wrote it down and watch the video, and tell me what you think:
Hot and Sour Eggplants
serves 3-6 people
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup curry powder
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 cup orange bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 eggplants, peeled and medium diced (seed core removed, if desired)
Juice from 4 limes and 4 lemons (about 1/2 cup of each)
zest from one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
Carrot tops and celery leaf, chiffonade
Sweat the onions and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat until they are translucent. Lower the heat and stir in the curry powder. Add the peppers and red peppers.
Stir in the eggplant and turn up the heat to medium-high. (I cooked the eggplant at this point until it started to soften.) Stir in the lemon juice, lime juice, and lemon zest. Once the stew is bubbling again, add the sugar.
Let this simmer for 10 minutes (or in my case, an hour). Stir in the carrot tops and celery leaf. Serve. (I served this with brown rice)
Watch the Video: Kenny’s Hot and Sour Eggplants from Top Chef
Related: Cooking Confessions: Do You Eat Your Mistakes?
(Image: Emma Christensen)