Tim Maslow, chef and co-owner of Strip T’s in Watertown, says to use firm, narrow, or elongated eggplant for this recipe. “Braising the vegetable,” says the chef, “takes ordinary roasted eggplant up a few notches.” The dish is a riff on the popular Vietnamese sandwich and includes pan-fried tofu, homemade pickled vegetables, and cilantro.
|5||long, skinny eggplant
(2½ pounds), such as Japanese or Chinese
|Salt and pepper, to taste|
|8||tablespoons canola oil|
|1||cup soy sauce|
|2||tablespoons Worcestershire sauce|
|2||tablespoons rice vinegar|
|2||cloves garlic, smashed and peeled|
|½||cup light brown sugar|
|1||piece (2 inches) lemongrass, smashed with the side of a knife|
1. Remove the eggplant stems. Halve the eggplant lengthwise, then halve crosswise. Sprinkle the flesh with salt and pepper.
2. In a flameproof casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Place enough eggplant pieces, cut sides down, in the pan to make one layer. Cook for 6 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn and brown the skin side for 6 minutes or until almost blackened. Remove from the pan. Use the remaining oil to brown the remaining eggplant. Remove them all from the pan.
3. To the pan, add the soy sauce, Worcestershire, vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, honey, and lemongrass. Heat, stirring, just until the sugar melts. Cover and let the mixture barely simmer for 40 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the lemongrass and garlic.
4. Return the eggplant to the pan. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the eggplant is tender. Remove the eggplant from the liquid; cool.
VEGETABLES AND ASSEMBLY
|½||cup rice vinegar|
|2||long, thin baguettes|
|Sriracha sauce, to taste|
|1||container (14 ounces) firm tofu|
|Canola oil (for the pan)|
|6||radishes, thinly sliced|
|Cilantro sprigs (thin stems only)|
1. Using a box grater, grate the carrots. Transfer to a heatproof bowl.
2. In a saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, stir, and simmer 3 minutes. Cool slightly. Pour the liquid over the carrots; set aside.
3. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.
4. Cut the bread into 10 short pieces, each about 4 inches. Slice the pieces in half horizontally, not all the way through, so one long side stays hinged. Spread the cut sides with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with a little sriracha sauce.
5. Squeeze the eggplant slightly so they’re not dripping with braising liquid and divide among the bread. Place the open sandwiches on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes to lightly toast the bread.
6. Press the tofu with paper towels to remove excess water. Cut the tofu into 8 slices (about ½-inch thick). Halve each one to make 16 thin slices. Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with oil. Working in batches, brown the tofu for 8 minutes, turning once, or until golden.
7. Place the tofu on the sandwiches. Drain the carrots and add them to the sandwiches with radishes and cilantro sprigs. Fold over the sandwiches. Secure with toothpicks. Adapted from Strip T’s