The “Tongue of the Mother-in-Law” dish was a staple of Soviet Union home cooking and is still very popular in the region today. Since the main “evil power” of a mother-in-law is in her tongue, it has to be long and stinging-hot. In its original the dish is an eggplant or zucchini cut into long slices to resemble a tongue. The slices are than fried and rolled with spicy stuffing. Not only does the content of the stuffing differ from one ethnic region to another, but so do the size and shape of the slices. There are also variations in how this dish is cooked and served. It can be served hot or cold. It can also be canned and stored to enjoy later in the season.
Here is the way I’ve seen it prepared in the Poltava region of Ukraine. It’s my personal favorite. Thin long slices of eggplant are fried in organic sunflower oil. A combination of sweet salad peppers and hot chile-like peppers are mixed with fresh garlic for the stuffing. Distilled vinegar is added to provide the subtle acidic flavor to the dish. When I recreated the recipe using local ingredients, I used aromatic walnut oil and New Mexico hatch chilies.
You can vary the heat level of this dish by choosing different peppers using the Scoville scale. To make this dish really TexMex, use your favorite salsa to substitute the mixture of cooked peppers and garlic.
Wash, dry, and slice the eggplant 3/8” (1 cm) thick. Lightly spray or brush each slice with vegetable oil on both sides.
Heat a dry non-stick (or seasoned stainless steel) skillet on high. Before frying the eggplant, the skillet should be very hot. A drop of water should evaporate instantly off the surface. Fry eggplant slices for 5-6 min, turning them every minute. Make sure each side is browning without burning. The slices will become thinner, because you are caramelizing and drying them at the same time. Lower heat will make them soggy instead. Leave the cooked eggplant slices to cool to room temperature.
To make the stuffing, roast and peel peppers and chilies. Dice them and mix with chopped garlic and herbs. Season the mixture with salt, ground black pepper, vinegar, and walnut oil. Taste the mixture every time you add a new ingredient. Adjust the spiciness to fit your personal preferences. The combination of vinegar, salt, and vegetable oil will balance the heat of the peppers. This mixture can be prepared in advance, stored and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
When the eggplant slices have reached room temperature, apply a thin layer (1/8’’) of stuffing on one side of each slice. Gently roll up the slices. They are ready to serve. You can refrigerate this dish and allow the eggplants to absorb all the flavors of the stuffing.