Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Whisk Wednesdays—Aubergines Bayildi (Gratin of Stuffed Eggplant)

Aubergines Bayildi (Gratin of Stuffed Eggplant)
"To dream of three aubergines is a sign of happiness."
— a Middle Eastern saying
I wish I'd had a dream about three aubergines instead of the one I had last night about driving a car and not being able to open my eyes to see the road! I'm nervous to ask for a dream interpretation on that one.

The next phase of the curriculum is all about menus. The first menu consists of the following:
• Aubergines Bayildi (Gratin of Stuffed Eggplant)
• Rouelles de Veau Bourgeoise (Veal Shanks with Pearl Onions and Mushrooms)
• Gratin de Fruits au Marasquin (Fruit Gratin with Maraschino Liqueur)

The challenge is to try to make all three courses in one cooking session, and preferably in a three-hour time limit similar to the class setting. So, on Saturday I used more pots and pans in one cooking session than ever (matched only by the stack of dishes after Christmas dinner).

"The Imam fainted''
First up is a Middle Eastern dish better known as Aubergines Imam Bayildi (pronounced AH-mahn by-yahl-deh), which means "the Imam fainted''.

Eggplant is notorious for requiring a lot of oil to pan-fry. If you try to add "just the usual amount", you’ll find yourself adding "just a bit more" and maybe even "just a bit more" again as the fruit (yes, eggplant is technically a fruit) soaks up the oil. Depending on the amount of oil you usually like to use, you may find that eggplant requires up to five times more!

This propensity to consume oil is a key part of Turkish folklore about how the dish got its name. The folk story centers on a village Imam who married a young woman. In those days, the father of the bride provided a dowry to the groom and in this case, since the Imam was a lover of fine food, the father offered twelve very large jars of olive oil. Now the wife turned out to be an excellent cook and her husband had her make his favorite dish, stuffed eggplant, every day. At this point, eggplants ability to consume oil comes into play and after only twelve days the olive oil was gone. So, on the thirteenth day, the wife explained the problem to the Imam and told him that he needed to buy more. Shocked, the Imam fainted, or translated to Turkish: Imam Bayildi. Turkish, though, is full of witty double meanings, and while some feel that the eggplant dish was so incredible that he fainted at the prospect of going without, others take the view that the Imam fainted because of the expense of the olive oil!

How to Make the Imam Faint
While the eggplants have their splash of salt on a rack (to remove bitterness and moisture while adding flavor), shallots are softened in olive oil, along with a few crushed cloves of garlic. Then tomato paste and peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes are mixed in and heated to remove moisture, a third of it is cooked "until dry".

After the salt has performed its magic, the eggplants are scraped of their salt scrub and baked for 15 to 20 minutes to soften their flesh. The flesh is scraped out and cooked in a good amount of quality olive oil (preferably Turkish olive oil). After cooking the eggplant, the tomato mixture is added. Finally some sliced basil is added for flavor and color.

The tomato/eggplant mixture is used to stuff the eggplants which are then topped with a slice of tomato and freshly grated cheese and finally dotted with butter. They are baked and browned for about 10 to 12 minutes and served on a bed of puréed tomatoes.

Now imagine this dish with all local ingredients. The eggplant, onions, garlic, tomatoes and basil from your garden. The homemade olive oil made from the olive tree in your backyard. And the cheese and butter from the local cow down the road. Though none of my ingredients were local, it was a tasty dish but I may have to visit Turkey to experience Aubergines Bayildi's faint-inducing attributes.


Serves 6

Aubergines Bayildi (Gratin of Stuffed Eggplant) mise en place
Chinese, Italian, regular and baby eggplants

3 small eggplants
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1¾ pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons finely sliced basil leaves
2 tomatoes
4 ounces grated Gruyère cheese (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Basil leaves for garnish

Vegetable oil for baking sheet

You can find the recipe for Aubergines Bayildi (Gratin of Stuffed Eggplant) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home or a similar one here. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with their recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Tasting Notes
Each step of baking, sautéing and then broiling brought out more and more flavor from the eggplant, tomato, garlic and basil. Using the freshest and most local ingredients you can find would make this even better and playing around with the cheese would change the dish. Even adding some spices such as cinnamon and allspice or cumin and coriander, currants or walnuts would change it up a bit.

• Article: Eggplant — A Mad Apple with a Dark Liaison
• Fine Cooking: How to Cook Eggplant to Tender, Silky Perfection
Don't Sweat The Aubergine by Nicholas Clee

Next Class
• Rouelles de Veau Bourgeoise (Veal Shanks with Pearl Onions and Mushrooms) pages 18-19

My Bucket List
• Taste Aubergine Imam Bayildi in Turkey.
. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $1,287.18 + $16.84 = $1,304.02
($2.81 per serving)

Butter used so far: 11 pounds, 28.5 tablespoons

. . . . . . . . . .
::Whisk Wednesdays::
We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.
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    Unknown said...

    I love eggplant and this looks so fabulous! Thanks for sharing!

    Anonymous said...

    YUM! I really like eggplant, but for some reason don't buy/cook it often. This looks delicious.

    Kayte said...

    Looks very very tasty. Did you eat the purple part? I didn't...always think that is bitter, so if you have ideas on that, let me know. I loved all the mixture inside...ended up with 2 leftover, so I scraped it back out of the shell and stuffed it in pasta shells and had a couple of those for lunch for a few days...very very good. Yours looks wonderful.

    Half Baked said...

    Wow that looks and sounds amazing! My mouth is watering:)

    EB said...

    Oh there was a recipe very similar to this in this month's 'Gourmet' and I was ogling it! Now I've got to try it.

    Malak said...

    Gorgeous photo! Beautiful lighting!
    I don't eat eggplant often but lately I've had a craving for it. I will try this recipe. Loved the story!!

    Sara said...

    Yum, I love eggplant, especially when it's stuffed. I can't believe the total butter count!

    Mermaid Sews said...

    man that sounds delish. I whish I had tried that when I was in Turkey last year. Although I vowed to take my husband there, so it will be on my list too.

    katie said...

    i do have to accept that eggplants loves oil. For a while I was overcooked eggplant to a distasteful stage. But then I learned that restraint (not overcooking) and then it was up from there.

    ps i really like your narrative.

    vibi said...

    I love eggplant gratin, it's actually my signature dish... but this one is completely different from the one I make!

    Might just try it! YUM!

    Michele said...

    This looks delicous and rather easy to make!

    Unknown said...

    I love eggplants and I love the story behind your dish! Very nice!

    Dishin And Dishes said...

    I have been wanting to try my hand with eggplant! This looks really good.

    grace said...

    i love, love, love roasted eggplant. truly, the only way to make me love it more is to smother it with cheese. this looks phenomenal. :)

    Lori said...

    I love interpreting dreams. My husband is always amazed. All your dream means is that you are afraid to look at whats in front of you or whats coming down the road. So to speak.

    Eggplants, eggplants- I can not wait till the market is loaded with them. I go crazy buying eggplants. Here is something new to do with them.

    Anonymous said...

    it's been so long since I've had eggplant. I'm trying to picture how this would taste. Presentation is gorgeous.

    NKP said...

    I have a recipe in one of my old books called "The Fainting Imam", now I know why!
    I love eggplant - looks yummy!

    Lo said...

    That's truly a great story... and it must have many forms. I once made a similar aubergine dish that was called "Eggplant that Made the Sultan Swoon" :)

    I'm a total sucker for ANYTHING eggplant, so this recipe is right up my proverbial alley!

    lisaiscooking said...

    It looks fantastic and must have been delicious with the gruyere!

    Eliana said...

    This eggplant looks fantastic. I will be visiting Turkey on vacation in a couple of weeks and will look for this dish while out for dinners.

    natalia said...

    I'd love to faint after tring this wonderful dish !!

    Manggy said...

    Ooh, thanks for the lesson on lore... Now I know why "byaldi" refers to a revered dish! (The other one I know being confit byaldi :) That looks delicious!

    pigpigscorner said...

    I love eggplant esp with cheese...yum yum

    Jacque said...

    Mmmm, I love how colorful it is. And it sounds so tasty too.

    Nice work!

    Katie said...

    Looks wonderful and so fresh

    Prue Barrett said...

    What a great site! I actually did the three month, six day a week intensive at Cordon Bleu - it was brilliant. Thanks for the great recipe. My husband LOVES eggplant!

    Deeba PAB said...

    Oh I wish I could get over my eggplant aversion & make the Iman Faint, Shari. Your post almost makes me want to eat eggplant, or at least try. Homemade olive oil...YOU GO GIRL!!! WOW!!

    Cathy said...

    Just reading about this dish almost made me faint! I love the story, true or not. Just the whole idea of giving olive oil as a dowry tickles me. This looks sounds delicious.

    Jamie said...

    I love eggplant, and strangely I used to make this recipe when I was in college. Why had it been 25 years since I have made it? Yours looks fabulously luscious and flavorful! This is now on my list to make this week!

    Christelle said...

    I blogged this one recently too, delicious indeed :)

    Justin said...

    i've been craving some new ways to cook eggplant, and this looks great

    DREAMER Elif GÜNEŞ said...

    you're great.these are very nice recipes.imam bayildi is really good eggplant dish.And you should try to cook karniyarik and musakka for turkish delicious eggplant recipes.