--Buy or grow an eggplant. Make sure it's really fresh; I like them skinny and slightly curved rather than massive and pear-shaped, but either way the skin should be tender to the nail, the cap green, and the color a rich creamy-white or purple with lots of shine to it.
Older eggplant are bitter, which makes them better as a meat substitute after being salted and drained, but makes them chewy and... well... meatlike. Younger eggplant cook up silky and sweet. If you have any doubts, taste a little chunk of the raw eggplant; it should be appley but not green, almost crisp instead of spongy, and definitely not bitter.
--Skin your eggplant, if you like (the skin is edible, but if you don't like potato fries with the skin on, you probably won't like the skin on these either). Cut it into thumb-sized chunks, or a little thicker if your hands are teeny.
--Preheat your oven to about 425 F (I'm lazy, do your own Celsius math). Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. Arrange the eggplant fries on the sheet, along with any other veggies you feel like roasting (this is great with cauliflower). Sprinkle everything with olive oil. Don't soak it, but make sure nothing's totally dry.
--Season liberally with kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, and maybe a sprinkle of lemon. Shake everything around to get the spices all over.
--Roast until done. This is tricky, because I didn't time it, but you want blackened edges (on the cauliflower too) and the fries will sink in and look kind of dried-up. Any spots in contact with oil will look darker. I honestly thought I had burned them.
The result: crispy and chewy on the outside, silky and sweet on the inside, as far from your mom's soggy eggplant parmesan as Godiva chocolate is from Hershey. Kevin describes the taste as "burnt marshmallow crust around a baked apple, but less sweet and more salty."
I served this with chicken thighs seared and then roasted in a lidless cast-iron skillet, copiously treated with lemon and pepper. The open lid makes for a chewier chicken than my normal foiled-in super-moist recipe, but with the caramelized cauliflower and spicy-sweet eggplant, it was amazing. Vegetarians, this would go great with a chewy grain salad or some particularly toothy beans (I'm thinking lima or fava, for a hint of green).
God why am I even typing this, my fingers are all greasy from cramming food in my face while I type. SUCH AN EASY MEAL.