Hey! Food Junta’s Turkish correspondent returns with another soul-fulfilling, horizon-expanding (and edible) recipe from the east/west. This is Karnıyarık (Kar-nuh-YAR-uhk).
In Turkish, Karnıyarık means “split stomach.” Do you hear the violence inherent this Turkish speciality? Are you prepared to cross all sorts of personal and culinary boundaries in pursuit of this Turkish delicacy? Because things will get intimate between you and eggplants. You’ll skin, fry, eviscerate, and roast this vegetable, but in the end, you’ll both emerge more than penpals searching for that stamp you had somewhere. You might even become fast friends. And it tastes good.
Before I came to this Turkish dish, my knowledge of eggplants remained limited to ogling the shiny, bulbous objects in the vegetable section, eggplant parmigiana pizza, and the rare ratatouille. My recipes cubed and sliced the poor eggplants, trying to find where they fit in my pre-karnıyarık lexicon. Yet from that distance, I could only manage to destroy or appropriate the eggplant. None of my recipes dealt with eggplant as eggplant. Even in so-called eggplant dishes, it was simply bulk, fodder for the tomato sauce, or buried in “real flavors” in a classic example of epicurean tourism, or worse, orientalism. (Whoa…) But what a wealth of authentic Turkish experience and untapped flavor I was missing! It just takes a willingness and patience to feel the common…something between you and the eggplant.
I’m not saying this relationship is without risks. The hot oil may may burn you, so please exercise caution. And, in your initial enthusiasm or tentative steps, you might burn a few good eggplants. This is the price of stripping away your misconceptions. I certainly went too far with one poor specimen, as you will see. But I really encourage you to jump in hands first, because you’ll learn something about eggplants. Maybe, in this journey into the Turkish unknown, about yourself, as well…
Let’s get to it.
(A special thanks to Burcu of Almost Turkish Recipes, without whom these eggplants and I may never have found each other)
6 small eggplants, peeled in stripes lengthwise (see pic)
1/2 lb ground meat
3 normal onions, well chopped
3 green bell peppers, well chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, finely choppped
1 tomato, well chopped, for the stuffing
1 tomato, sliced vertically, for the top
long green peppers, as many as there are eggplants (see pic), finely chopped
red pepper flakes
4 Tbps olive oil
frying oil, plenty
1 cup hot water
Large pot (2 whole eggplants should lie comfortably inside)
Large frying pan or pot
Oven pan with sides
Eggplants: meet and greet (and fry)
Find small eggplants, not McMansion-sized. At least two should lie down in your fry-pot.
First, put at least 2 inches of oil into pot. The eggplants should be able to bob freely (but don’t try it just yet). Heat the oil on high. It should be really hot so the eggplants fry rather than just absorb.
Peel whole eggplants in 1 cm strips, like a prison-suit. Leave tops and bottoms on. Soak in salty water 10 minutes.
(Note: you can be chopping the other vegetables during any free moments)
Dry eggplants by wrapping them in paper towels and squeezing gently.
The oil should be ready, i.e. hot. Gently place as many eggplants as will fit in the hot oil. There will be serious bubbling and crackling. Let them remain for 6-8 minutes or until lightly brown, turning occasionally so they brown evenly. Carefully place the now-soft specimens on thick paper towels or newspaper.
Filling: not to be neglected
(at this point, turn on oven to 400º F)
Heat frying pan on medium-high. Sauté onions and green peppers 5 minutes, stirring.
Add olive oil, stir, then add meat. Sauté until done, and juices have left the meat.
Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes, sauté until tomatoes are cooked. By now, the mixture should be moist.
Add parsley and stir.
Splitting and Filling: the next big step
For each eggplant, use a spatula to place it gently on a counter or plate. Leave the top and bottom intact. Use two forks or spoons to lovingly split the wilted yet proud specimen. This is the “split stomach.”
Carefully fill the space with the meat mixture, making a small mound. Place tomato slices and long green pepper on top.
Using spatula and other utensils, transfer to the oven pan.
Once all there in the pan, slowly drizzle hot water over the top.
Stick in the oven about 15 minutes, until green papper on top is nicely roasted.
Enjoy! Will last for a day out on your counter, unless you have a cat.