Thursday, 14 April 2011

Oh Boy

My father had many endearing affectations. One, picked up, I suspect, during a posting in Washington, was to say, very emphatically, almost yearningly, 'Oh boy,' when he tasted something he liked that you'd cooked. 'Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.' A pause. 'That IS good.' Or sometimes, 'That is GOOD.' Rather like the German waiter's cry of 'sofort' and 'gleich', I was never sure what finely nuanced differences in meaning there were between these two variants. Probably none. As he wasn't actually particularly keen on eating anyway, the whole performance was largely insincere - but that didn't make it less charming.

Anyway, after appealing for recipes for my home-grown eggplant the other day, I got lots of suggestions, mostly to do with grilling the things. One recipe though that someone kindly gave me and, I'm sorry to say, I at first thought was going to be rather disgusting, (partly because I thought it would be a waste to peel the eggplant - but then I realised that, as long as I peeled them thickly, I could grill the peel bits and so get two dishes for the price of one) turned out, in fact, to be a bit of an 'Oh boy' dish.

It qualified for 'Oh boy', status, I felt, by being unusual, surprising and, most importantly, of course, delicious. In addition, it had a special allure because it came from the 'original' Russian Tea Room in New York - not the nasty modern incarnation, which boasts rather oddly (but in a manner that makes me suspect that there is Russian new money somewhere in the background) that it is the 'second home for boldface names' (???) but the authentic 1920s establishment. I would very much like to have visited the Russian Tea Room in its earlier incarnation, but that is no longer possible. Armed with this recipe though, I can close my eyes, take a spoonful of eggplant a la russe and pretend that I am there:

Eggplant a la Russe

1 kg eggplant
45 g butter
2 tbsps finely chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon french mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper
1/2 cup thick sour cream
6 tbsps finely grated parmesan cheese

Peel the eggplant. This is vital, otherwise the inside becomes too soft by the time the skin is tender. Dice into medium-sized cubes, each about 2.5 centimetres. Put into a saucepan of boiling, lightly salted water. Bring back to boil and cook two minutes. Drain well and let stand for 10 minutes in a colander.
Melt butter, add onion and cook until softened. Add flour, stirring until cooked and then stir in milk and cream. Bring to boil, stirring all the time until thickened.
Mix in coriander, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper. Finally add sour cream. Taste. It should be quite well seasoned with the spices.
Put the eggplant into a shallow ovenproof dish - or individual ones. Spread sauce over the top. Scatter with cheese. Bake in a moderate oven until edges are bubbling and the top is glazed and golden.

(And, yes, it is very rich.)


  1. Oh my... that sounds delicious

  2. I'll cook it for you if you come to Canberra in the eggplant season.