Khoresh Bademjan (Eggplant Stew)
- · 3 Chinese or 5 Japanese eggplant (1½ to 2 pounds), stems trimmed but tops on, halved lengthwise (Substitute regular eggplant)
- · ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- · Kosher salt
- · 8 chicken drumsticks (skinless or not)
- · 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- · ½ teaspoon ground turmeric (more to taste)
- · ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- · ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- · Ground black pepper
- · ¼ teaspoon ground saffron, steeped in 2 tablespoons hot water
- · 3 tablespoons tomato paste, diluted in ½ cup hot water
- · ½ cup sour green grapes, ¼ cup verjuice (juice of unripe sour green grapes), or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice (plus more as needed)
- · ¾ cup cherry tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 450 F with the rack set in the upper-third position. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use two baking sheets if necessary. If the Chinese eggplant is very long cut it in half crosswise. Place the eggplant halves on the baking sheet and brush with ¼ cup of the olive oil. Use more oil if necessary; eggplant absorbs a lot of oil. Liberally sprinkle the eggplant with salt and roast for 15 minutes, until softened but not completely cooked through. (Alternatively, roast on the barbecue.) Move the eggplant to the top rack and broil for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.
While the eggplant roasts, make a couple of slits in the flesh of each drumstick. This allows the drumstick to cook faster and for all the flavours to seep in. Set aside. In a large deep pan with a lid, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt, reduce the heat to medium, and add the drumsticks, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine and cook until the chicken takes on a little colour, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer until the chicken releases some of its juices, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the saffron water, the tomato paste mixture, ½ cup hot water, and ½ teaspoon salt. If you are not using sour green grapes, add the verjuice or fresh lemon juice at this point. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the sour green grapes (if using) and cherry tomatoes, and gently nestle the eggplant into the stew so it can soak up all the delicious juices. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the eggplant, sour green grapes, and cherry tomatoes have softened but are not falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste as it simmers. Add more fresh lemon juice (or more verjuice, if using) if necessary. Add more water or salt as needed. Serve with rice or grain of choice.
Make Ahead: Prepare up to 1 day in advance. Take care when reheating so that the eggplant does not fall apart. Adjust the water when reheating.
Prep Ahead: The eggplant can be roasted and stored in an airtight container in the fridge (up to 3 days) or in the freezer (up to 3 months). Thaw and carry on with the recipe.
Plan Ahead: Freeze for up to 3 months. Adjust the water when reheating.
2018 Naz Deravian, Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories. Flatiron Books, New York. Recipe found on page 149.