Grilled Eggplant with Two Miso Sauces

SERVES 4 - 8

The Japanese go to an izakaya, a small bar/restaurant, to drink sake, beer, and vodka-like shochu. **

1/2 cup shiromiso
3 tbsp. mirin
3 egg yolks, well beaten

1/2 cup akamiso
3 tbsp. sake
5 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. black sesame seeds,
toasted and ground

4 small Japanese eggplants
Vegetable oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
5 shiso leaves

1. For shiromiso sauce: Put shiromiso, mirin, and 1 tbsp. water in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until creamy and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Add egg yolks and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. For akamiso sauce: Put akamiso, sake, 1 tbsp. water, and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in sesame seeds, and set aside.

3. For eggplant: Remove stems from eggplants and cut each in half lengthwise, placing them, cut side down, in a bowl of cold water as you go to prevent flesh from turning brown. Just before cooking, remove eggplants from water and pat dry. Pierce each eggplant half with a toothpick all over the flesh side and make a crisscross pattern with a paring knife on the skin side, then lightly coat eggplant halves with vegetable oil.

4. Heat 1 tsp. sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, in skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn eggplants over and cook until soft, about 15 minutes more. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Place eggplants on a serving platter, alternating pieces skin side up and flesh side up. Spread shiromiso sauce on those that are skin side up and akamiso sauce on the rest. Use 1 or 2 whole shiso leaves as a garnish; cut remaining leaves into a chiffonade and sprinkle on top.

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