Miso Butter Glazed Eggplant
I’m a little late to this party, but always better late than never. Miso has become the honored guest of cooks everywhere, but it’s actually been around a long time. In fact, this ancient Japanese seasoning dates back before the third century BC. But I completely understand why it’s being celebrated now: miso is not only extremely adaptable, it adds amazing depth of flavor to everything you cook. It will literally change the way you season overnight. Here, tender roasted eggplant is transformed by a savory glaze made with mirin, sake and a compound butter mixed with miso. The preparation is simple. The complexity of flavor–salty, slightly sweet and earthy–will take your breath away. Here’s your invitation: your inspiration has just begun.
Miso paste is made with rice, barley and soybean that has been slowly fermented to create its deep saltiness and unique flavor. White or mild miso (shiromiso) is made with a short fermentation; red miso (akamiso) is fermented longer and has a hearty, more complex taste. When you cook, add it as you would add salt to season, or combine it with butter to create a finishing element for a myriad of dishes.
Remember the slogan: “butter makes it better”? Well, miso butter makes it betterer. This new component is an essential to keep in your kitchen–you’ll reach for it again and again. It’s staggering how many ways you can use it: tossed with roasted vegetables, added to soups, a topping for fish and meat, stirred into pasta dishes, simply spread on toast. My son mixes it with chopped scallions and tops his baked sweet potato with it. The combinations are endless. Almost anything you cook with it will benefit from that salty, earthy umami.
And it couldn’t be simpler to make. Bring your best quality unsalted butter to room temperature. Unsalted is important because miso already brings plenty of salty to the party. In a small food processor, whip together white miso paste and butter. Transfer to a sealed jar and keep in your refrigerator. Once you’ve used it once or twice, you may want to adjust the proportions: I like mixing one part to one part, but if you prefer a milder flavor, try one part miso to two parts butter. Or go stronger by reversing proportions or using hearty red miso instead.
When you shop for eggplants select ones that are firm and shiny with green tops. For this dish, choose small Italian eggplants that are long and skinny; here I used a mixture of dark purple and graffiti. You can also use Japanese eggplants, which are even longer and skinnier.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and brush lightly with toasted sesame oil. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a chef’s knife, score through the flesh to the skin (but not through it) in a diagonal pattern.
Brush the cut side of each eggplant half with sesame oil and lightly season with kosher salt. Lay cut side down on the lined baking sheet. Roast in oven for 15 to 20 minutes until softened, rotating pan halfway. If you use Japanese eggplants, reduce cooking time to 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven when done.
Preheat broiler and make miso butter glaze. Invest a little more in a nice bottle of sake for this glaze: the sauce will taste better and you can drink the rest with dinner. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring mirin and sake to a quick boil for 30 seconds, then reduce heat.
Whisk in miso butter. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until glaze is slightly thickened. Stir in sesame seeds.
Turn roasted eggplants over and spoon glaze generously onto cut side. Place under broiler and cook until golden brown, watching carefully and rotating pan if needed.
Platter eggplants and garnish with more sesame seeds and thinly sliced scallion greens. Serve hot or at room temperature. Kanpai!
Adapted from Martha Rose Schulman/The New York Times
Serves 4 as a Side:
2 sticks best quality unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sweet white miso (shiromiso), preferably organic
4 small Italian (or Japanese) eggplants
toasted sesame oil
Miso Butter Glaze:
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons good quality sake
6 tablespoons miso butter
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
sesame seeds and thinly sliced scallion greens for garnish