This recipe is an adaptation of southern Turkish style kebab, prepared in the oven. Eggplants are cooked twice — either grilled or fried first, and then baked with meat in a tomato and pepper sauce — to concentrate flavor.
Does Size Matter?
Some European and Mediterranian eggplant recipes are difficult to reproduce here (Central Texas) for one reason — our “Italian” eggplants are giant, ginormous, huge!
Large Italian Eggplant
It’s impossible to slice them into small rounds, for example. There are baby eggplants, but they are twice more expensive. Asian eggplants I’ve been promoting for all these years recently disappeared from HEB and Central Market grocery departments. They are still available in Asian grocery stores, but not on a regular basis.
Why does the eggplant size matter? Traditional presentation is important, but consistent cuts also result in equal cooking times with other ingredients. For that matter, when choosing an eggplant for this recipe, pay attention to its freshness as well as for its size and shape. My version of Patlican Kebabi doesn’t look the same as Turkish, but the idea of vertical rolls brings big eggplants back into the game.
This dish is addictive! The more I make it with vertical rolls, the more advantages I see in this method: easier steps, equally distributed ingredients no matter what size they originally are, controlled portions, impressive presentation.
There are variations of this dish with beef, lamb, and chicken. In a case of chicken, drumsticks or thighs are preferred to ground meat. Chicken is marinated for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 8 hours in a refrigerator.
For 1.5 lb chicken:
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt
2 tsp tomato paste
½ tsp crushed urfa piper (optional, see Recipe Notes below)
Cut off eggplant stems. Cut it in half and slice as shown in the picture, 0.25-0.3" thin.
Preheat a skillet over high heat. Spray or brush a thin layer of olive oil on eggplant slices and season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry eggplant slices over high heat, 2-3 minutes per side, until soft and lightly caramelized. Let them cool to room temperature. This step can be done in advance.
to prepare meat
Preheat oven 350F. Prepare 2 Qt deep baking dish.
Soak baguette slices in 1/2 cup of beef stock. Combine spices and salt and grind using a mortar and pestle (otherwise, use ground spices to taste).
Peel onion and garlic. Wash parsley. If using a food processor, roughly chop them and process with the soaked baguette. Otherwise, finely mince with a knife.
In a bowl, combine meat, vegetables, and spices. "Knead" the mixture with your hands for a few minutes, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.
to assemble and roast
Using a scoop or a spoon, place 1 oz of meat on a slice of eggplant and make a roll.
Place it vertically into the baking dish, eggplant skin up.
Slice sweet baby peppers and fill empty spaces between the eggplant rolls. Combine all ingredients for the sauce and pour equally distributing it over all rolls. Arrange cherry tomatoes on top.
Bake for 1 hour uncovered. Serve hot. If cooking in advance, let it cool down to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap or a lid, and store refrigerated for up to 5 days. To serve, reheat covered in a microwave until hot.
Urfa piper is available at Savory Spice Shop:
Located in: The Arboretum
Address: 10000 Research Blvd #129, Austin, TX 78759
Urfa biber adds some heat and specific flavor, making the dish really Turkish.