Eggplant meatballs

Polpette in Italian don’t have meat as a rule, so the name deceives. I hate the word fritters in general, and especially for these, so just call them eggplant balls if we have a word zealot. They are what you eat at Christmas Day at the home of your 70+ year old Italian aunt who makes a meal for 25 people and no help. These are the starters.

Polpette di melanzane di zia

Eggplant meatballs (without meat)

For about four people, and two kids

500g of eggplants, skin on (ca. 3 large)
200-250g of breadcrumbs or panko
2 medium eggs
100g of pecorino grated
one garlic clove
fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
frying oil

Slice the eggplant in cubes and throw them in salted boiling water for fifteen minutes. Strain them out of the hot water, and place them in a large strainer with a bowl underneath. Let them cool.

Use any kind of masher and smush the water out of them as much as you can. I use a Dutch potato masher. A lot of water will come out, and then more. Leave it and come back in between steps, but do it over and over because it needs to be thorough. Water prevents the frying to really take.

Once you are satisfied (and this may be an hour long process), bring them to your largest cutting board and using your largest knife start to chop.

The written instructions I received say, “scola scola scola chop chop chop”, my Italo-American aunt.

Chop the eggplant as fine as you can make it. Chop some more. I think of it cous cous as my goal. Once you have the eggplant as fine as you can make it, add it to the mixing bowl you will work in.

Add one of the eggs, finely chopped basil and thinly sliced garlic, and mix it all together. Add the pecorino, and salt, and stir until it is all incorporated. Mix the other egg and once it is all together, add the panko/breadcrumbs.

You’ll have to see self-determine how much panko will hold it all together. Try forming an oval shaped in your hands, and see how it sticks. It needs to be dense but moist. Create forms that are long and oval. This will yield between 15 and 20 but the smaller you make the more you can eat, which I’ve learned is a bonus. Place them all along the board on which you chopped the eggplant.

Wash your hands thoroughly, and prepare the frying station. Fill half a frying pan with the oil, and bring to a heat of 180C degrees (350F degrees), and set out a dish with thick cotton paper to absorb the oil of the cooked balls. Test the oil with a little dip of the eggplant filling*. Begin frying, adding no more than 5 per time. Let fry for about 5 minutes per side, rotate, and do another 5 minutes, then set on the paper. Add the rest by rotations of five, and set aside alongside in the order that they went into the oil.

When all the meatballs are fried, you’ll start a second frying round to get them really dark and crispy. About 4-6 minutes per side.

Begin the cleanup process.
1: Refresh the absorbment paper on the serving dish
2: Clean your board from the bacterials, like raw egg. Begin the process with fresh salt or lemon to soak while you eat. These will do the bulk of the work.

The meatballs are now done, you’ll see the browning. Stack them and let cool.

Finish the cleanup process.
3: Change your top, because you’ll smell of frying oil.

4: Wash your hands and neck.

Join the party.

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